Fisherman’s stew with toasted garlic

by Leonardo Rivera Ruiz

A traditional ‘suquet’ from Brindisa’s executive head chef


For the ‘fumet blanco’ or ‘white fish stock’ (makes around 1.6 litres):
620g fish bones (ideally ‘blue’ fish such as hake, monkfish, sole, or turbot)
1¼ onion, roughly chopped
1¼ carrot, roughly chopped
2½ sticks of celery, roughly chopped
1¼ leek, roughly chopped
1¼ bay leaf  

For the suquet (stew):
300g potatoes, peeled and cut cascada style (see method below) into rough 4cm chunks
2 medium prepared lobsters
100g clams
100g mussels
Olive oil, for frying
200g monkfish, cut into rough 4cm chunks
200g gurnard fillet, cut into rough 4cm chunks
50g cuttlefish, cut into small squares, about 2cm
1⅗l hot fumet blanco
Salt, to taste
1 tsp parsley, chopped (optional)

For the toasted garlic picada:
4 blanched almonds, preferably marcona
8 hazelnuts
4 cloves garlic, skin on
4 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp hot fumet blanco
1 slice of good white bread, crusts cut off

For the fumet blanco:
Makes around 1.6 litres


Preheat the oven to 180C.

To make the stock, put all the ingredients in a large pan. Add 2 litres of cold water and heat slowly, until boiling (this will take about 25 mins), then take off the heat. Strain through a very fine sieve.

Now prepare the potatoes. They need to be chopped in a particular, irregular way, using a technique known as ‘cascada’, or ‘cracking’ (from the verb cascar). The potatoes are first cut into quite big chunks of about 4-5cm, then you insert a small, sharp knife halfway into each chunk and twist the blade until the potato breaks into jagged pieces (cascadas), making a cracking sound as it does so. Because the potato breaks unevenly, as if along fault lines, the cell walls stay more intact and less exposed than if you sliced through them with a knife. As they simmer, less starch is released and the potatoes cook evenly all the way through, rather than being slightly softer on the outside.

For the suquet, cut the lobsters in half lengthways and separate the halved heads from the tails. Keep the halves of the heads intact, as the flavours found there will contribute to the sauce. Separate the claws and crack them.

To start the picada, spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray, put into a preheated oven and roast for about 8 mins, until lightly browned, making sure you watch carefully, gently shaking the tray and turning it if necessary to keep the nuts from getting burnt. Take out of the oven and keep to one side.

Leave the garlic cloves in their skins, but bash them with the flat of a knife to crack them. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a small frying pan and add the garlic cloves, tilting the pan so that they are well covered and can sizzle steadily in the oil. As they cook, press down on them with the back of a spoon. The skin of the cloves will become crisp and peel off, so you can remove it with tongs. By cooking the garlic this way, the thinner parts of the cloves will turn quite a deep golden brown, and the thicker parts will become lightly golden, with a soft interior. Check for this by pushing them down with a spoon. As soon as there is some give, the cloves are ready.

Take them out of the oil and, when cool enough to handle, remove any remaining skin and cut off the root base. Keep the pan of oil for use again in a minute.

Using a pestle and mortar, grind the garlic cloves with a pinch of salt, to a smooth paste. Add the reserved nuts, grind to a paste once more, then slowly pour in 1 tbsp oil, a little at a time, working it well until it is all incorporated. Finally, stir in 1 tbsp of fumet blanco, to loosen the paste a little.

Heat the reserved pan of garlicky oil, adding the rest of the oil, then put in the slice of bread and fry gently to a golden toffee colour and rich savoury flavour. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, break into pieces and add to the nuts in the mortar, grinding again to a smooth paste, adding the rest of the reserved stock to loosen it slightly. Keep this picada to one side.

To make the suquet, wash the clams and mussels in plenty of water, cutting off any beards from the mussels. Discard any that are not closed, or won’t close if tapped against your work surface.

Start by heating 2 tbsp oil in a large, high-sided pan, at least 40cm in diameter, until it shimmers. Put in the monkfish and fry for 1 min on each side, just to seal—treat it gently, as you don’t want the fish to break up later and turn the suquet into a gloopy fish paste. Lift out and keep to one side. If necessary, add a little more oil, but keep it to just a fine film as you cook the different fish.

Put the gurnard into the pan, skin side down, for 1 min, then lift out and reserve.

Now put in the cracked lobster claws and cook for 2 mins on each side until they turn dark red, then lift out and reserve. Next put in the split lobster heads, shell down, for another 2 mins, without turning them over, then take them out of the pan and reserve. Now cook the tail pieces, shell side down, for only 1 min, until the shells turn red. Remove and reserve.

Put the potatoes into the pan, adding 1 tbsp oil if necessary, saute until they are brown at the edges, then lift out and reserve. Put in the cuttlefish and cook until it turns translucent, then add the mussels and the clams together with 50ml water. Cover the pan and steam the shellfish until the shells have opened. Remove and reserve, discarding any that fail to open.

Return the potatoes to the pan, stirring them well to coat them in the juices released by the shellfish, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed, then simmer the potatoes for around 12 mins, until tender.

Stir in the picada, taste again and adjust for salt if necessary, then add the monkfish and the lobster heads, with the shell side upwards. Add the rest of the reserved lobster, fish and shellfish, boil steadily for about 2 mins, until the fish and shellfish are just cooked through, and serve immediately. Remove the lobster heads and finish, if you like, with the chopped parsley.

Recipe: Leonardo Rivera Ruiz