This is the classic, spectacular Croatian seafood stew from the Dalmatian Coast. I was amazed to see Ino preparing the eel by running his hand down the length of it to break any small bones. If you’re buying eel for the first time, get your fishmonger to show you how this is done, if you can find one that stocks eel! For the recipe you need to use at least three different kinds of fish and some shellfish, white-fleshed reef and rock fish are good choices. Ideally one fish will be for flavour, one for its flesh and one to boost the thickness of the stew. Scampi are great for flavour or you can use Balmain bugs or crabs instead. Serve with soft polenta.
- 1.5 kg fish such as eel, rockling, coral trout or rock flathead, cleaned and scaled, heads and tails removed, cut into cutlets
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 20 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes
- 100 ml white wine
- salt and pepper
- 500 ml fish stock or water
- 12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 6 scampi, Balmain bugs or crabs
- 12 cherry tomatoes
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time 3 hours
Marinate the fish in the oil, lemon juice, a couple of tablespoons of the minced garlic and most of the parsley (reserve a little for garnish) for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Heat some more oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or claypot and sauté the remaining garlic, adding the onion after a few seconds. When the onion is lightly coloured, add the chopped tomato and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for about 20 minutes, until it loses its acidity.
Season the marinated fish with salt and pepper, making sure you get each piece. Add to the pan and stir well, then add the fish stock or water to just cover the fish. Bring to the boil over high heat then continue cooking rapidly for 20 minutes. Don’t stir but carefully shake the pan instead to avoid breaking up the fish. Add the mussels, scampi (or Balmain bugs or crabs) and cherry tomatoes in the last 5 minutes.
Serve the stew with soft polenta. Garnish with parsley.