A brodetto is an Italian fish soup or stew, often tomato based, which has about as many different versions as there are types of seafood. The beauty of it is, once you have a nice base, you can add as many or as few seafood elements as you desire – it can be a simple quick and easy dinner or an extravagant ode to seafood. Always be guided by the best seafood that's available, rather than what you think you want. Essential to me though is the addition of fregola, a small Sardinian pasta and a big dollop of extra garlicky aïoli.
- 3 medium cloves of garlic, finely crushed
- 2 tsp river salt
- 2 tsp hot English mustard
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 egg yolks
- 300 ml grapeseed oil
- 50 ml olive oil
- river salt and black pepper
- extra squeeze of lemon
- 6 medium green prawns, shells and heads removed but kept, cut into 1cm slices
- 1 small brown onion, sliced
- 1 kg mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 100 ml white wine
- 200 g fregola
- 3 large eschallots, finely sliced
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp thyme
- 300 g calamari, slice into thin strips
- 400 g white, firm fleshed fish fillet, cut into 2 cm chunks
- river salt and white pepper
- a little squeeze of lemon juice
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
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.
For the aÃ¯oli
Mix the garlic, salt, mustard, lemon juice and egg yolks together in a mixing bowl until well combined.
Slowly start adding the oils together in a steady stream, while whisking continually.
Taste at the end and add some pepper. It may need an extra little extra lemon juice. Set aside. Mayonnaise can be made and kept for about a week.
For the brodetto
In a wide based pot, over medium heat, throw in a splash of olive oil and the onion and cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the prawn shells, raise the heat to high and give the shells a firm stir and a bit of pounding in the pot. You want to be a little brutal to extract all the tasty bits inside the prawn heads. Continue in this slightly violent manner until all the shells and heads have turned a lovey orangey red colour, at which stage add just enough water to cover. Bring this stock to the boil, turn down to a simmer and give it about half an hour on the stove. Strain through a fine strainer, discard shells and set aside. Makes about 1 litre of stock.
Place a large wide-based pot (one with a lid) on the stove over high heat. Have your mussels ready in a mixing bowl with the herbs and the wine. Once your pan is very hot, throw in the mussels and quickly cover with a lid. Give the pan a few shakes to get your mussels moving and cook for a minute or so. Raise the lid to have a look and check to see if the mussels are opening. Once at least half of them have popped, remove the lid and, using tongs, start pulling out the opened ones, continue until all mussels are ready. I like to remove some of the shells; theyâ€™re nice to have around but they take up valuable space. Strain the mussel juice through a fine strainer and set aside.
Get a pot large enough to accommodate all your ingredients, place it over gentle heat with a nice splash of olive oil and start cooking off your eschallots. Give them a few minutes in the pan before adding the anchovy. Give it a good stir and, once the anchovy has melted, add the garlic and thyme. Give these ingredients a little time together before adding your reserved prawn and mussel stocks. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and have a taste. I like to add quite a lot of pepper at this stage and it may even need a small amount of salt.
And now itâ€™s just a matter of gentle poaching all your seafood. Add the prawns first and give them a few minutes before adding the fregola and the calamari. Again, give this a few minutes and then lastly add the fish. Have a final taste; you may want to add a little lemon juice and sometimes I will add a bit of butter to give extra richness to my sauce.
As soon as the seafood and fregola are cooked, throw in the parsley then use a slotted spoon to pull out all the seafood bits onto a large deep platter before spooning as much of the sauce over as you can. Add a large dollop of the aioli and serve the rest on the side with a large pile of chargrilled toast.
â€¢ There are so many excellent ways to make this, so feel free to experiment. The addition of a little saffron works really well, as does the tomato-based version. Making your own fish stock is also worth the effort for some extra flavour. I get very excited each time I find a new way to make this.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd. Salt dish by Joost from Koskela; platter from The r.e.a.l Store; tiles from Onsite Supply and Design; crystals supplied by Collierâ€™s Crystals Blackheath.