21/03/2012

Cioppino

Cioppino? There are so many Italian inspired fish stews and so many names for them, but this Americo-Italian dish originating from San Francisco seemed to fit the best.

Fish and shellfish cooked in red wine with herbs and served out with soft bread - sourdough, or baguette.

According to Wikipedia: " The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning "to chop" or "chopped" which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the day's catch."

My Cioppino (Mio Cioppino?) was certainly a dish of all manner of leftover trimmings from fish that I've been storing up in the freezer, coupled with a shellfish medley including crayfish ... something American in the stew, hence the name.

American breed crayfish have managed to somehow get over here to Britain and are multiplying exponentially, clogging up waterways and pushing the native breed to extinction! It's out loyal duty to eat as many of these critters as we can ... mutter ... grumble ... little beggars ... coming over here, clogging up our waterways ...

I digress ...

So, to recap, I have some fish: cod, salmon & tuna, some shellfish: squid, prawn, crayfish & mussels, some chopped tomatoes, puree, a shallot and a glut of mushrooms.

To work ..

First, finely chop a load of mushrooms - I love mushrooms! Italian dishes are generally bulked out with pasta, but for paleo eaters, you know what is better than pasta? Anything! Anything that tastes of something and actually carries some goodness: mushrooms work out perfectly.

In a heavy based pan, get the mushrooms soaking up some fat. I fried off some streaky bacon and a good helping of pork fat collected from sausages - lard, essentially.

Toss in a good handful of chopped shallots and gently fry in the remaining fats.

Drop in the fish pieces and sauté through so that they are coloured and starting to take on some flavour.

Pour in a carton of chopped tomatoes, a generous couple of tablespoons of tomato purée which will assist with the thickening and a little anchovy paste for that mysterious underlying flavour that just seems to make a dish like this taste boosted.

Water (or red wine, if you like), and drop in the shellfish. If the shellfish are fresh, just cook these through at the end and stir in; mine were from a box of frozen shellfish.

Add in some chilli, black pepper, bay leaf and perhaps a little sea salt, although the anchovy should be enough for paleo tastes. You can add more herbs if you like, but I wanted to keep it simple and make a show of a special ingredient I had just collected from the nearby woods.

Tell me more ...

Wild garlic! Spring has sprung! Wild garlic emerges in woodland and sheltered areas, and for a couple of months you can pick this natural bounty, shredding a few leaves and folding into dishes for a heady garlic aroma. Make the most of it - it is a short season.

There are a number of species of wild garlic: Allium Tricoccum, or Ramp, in North America and Allium Ursinum, or Ramsons, across Europe and Asia are a couple of the more prolific species.

Do be aware, that in certain areas of the world, wild garlic is endangered! Allium Tricoccum is a protected species under Quebec legislation and are considered a species of "special concern" for conservation in Maine, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

I collected a good handful of Allium Ursinum, a name related to bears (ursus) who, apparently, go wild for this stuff! I take care to pluck the leaves, leaving the presently young bulb underground. Once they have matured a little, I'll pull up some bulbs.

When the stew was ready to serve, a few leaves rolled and shredded, along with a similar sized helping of basil leaves were stirred into the dish and served out into bowls. Drizzle a generous helping of good extra virgin olive oil over.

Accompaniment? It's a wet dish and, traditionally, a bread would be served alongside to mop up the juices. I went with tradition and served up some azedo polvilho puffs.

Gorgeous!

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