Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s Spanish fish stews for winter – recipes

It’s very common to make a bean, chickpea or lentil stew at least once a week in Spain – we Spaniards love our pulses, and there’s nothing quite as comforting in the colder months. Today’s fishy recipes are quite traditional, especially the suquet, which is a real feast and the type of dish that’s perfect for a special occasion. They’re much lighter and quicker than meat stews, but they’re still incredibly warming and good for scooping up with a spoon.

Bean and clam stew (pictured above)

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
Serves 4-6

1kg clams
tbsp fine sea salt, to clean the clams (see method)
75ml extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
2 onions, peeled and diced
1 leek, white part only, chopped
1 green pepper, stalk, pith and seeds removed, flesh diced
1 red pepper, stalk, pith and seeds removed, flesh diced
1 bay leaf
2 dried chillies
, finely chopped
200ml white wine
1½-2 litres prawn stock
(or shellfish or fish stock)
500g dried haricot beans
, soaked overnight in cold water
Sea salt and
black pepper
bunch chervil, chopped, or dill or tarragon

Check with your fishmonger whether the clams have been cleaned – if not, you’ll need to do so yourself by putting them in a bowl of cold water with a tablespoon of fine salt and soaking for 40 minutes. Gently move the clams around in the water every 10 minutes: the salt water makes them expel any sand.

Put the oil in a large saucepan on a medium-low heat. Once it’s hot, add the garlic and onions, and saute, stirring, for 10-12 minutes. Add the leek, fry, stirring, for five to six minutes, then add the peppers, bay leaf and dried chillies, and cook for eight to 10 minutes, until really soft and sweet but not coloured. Pour in the wine, cook until the liquid has evaporated, then add the stock and the drained beans. Half-cover the pot with a lid, and leave to cook very gently for about 45 minutes, until the beans have soaked up lots of the stock and are nice and soft; if at this stage the beans are still a little hard, add extra water and carry on cooking until they soften.

When the beans are done, season the mix, then drain the clams and add them to the pot. Half-cover the pan again, and cook the clams over a medium heat for three or four minutes, until they open (discard any that do not). Stir in the chervil, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve with lots of bread for mopping up the sauce.

Suquet (fish and potato stew)

Nieves Barragan Mohacho’s fish and potato stew (AKA suquet).
Nieves Barragan Mohacho’s fish and potato stew (AKA suquet).

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4-6

For the stew
25ml good extra-virgin olive oil (I use arbequina), plus extra for the picada and for toasting the bread
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
100g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 100g drained and chopped tinned tomatoes)
1 generous pinch saffron
2 tsp sweet pimentón
125ml dry white wine
100ml Spanish brandy
100ml manzanilla or fino sherry
80ml pastis
waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
1.7 litres good-quality fish stock
200g cod fillet
, cut into 2cm pieces
200g monkfish fillet, cut into 2cm pieces
200g gurnard fillet, cut into 2cm pieces
Sea salt and black pepper
3 slices good white bread, cut in half, to serve

For the picada
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
, peeled and roughly chopped, plus 1 clove extra, peeled and halved, to finish
50g whole hazelnuts, blanched and lightly toasted
50g whole
almonds, blanched and lightly toasted

First make the picada. In a mortar, crush the parsley, garlic and nuts with a drizzle of olive oil until you have a rough paste, then set aside.

Now start on the stew. Pour the oil into a large pan over a medium heat and, once it’s hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, until slightly golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute, stirring every now and then, for about 10 minutes more, until the mix reduces to a paste. Add the saffron, pimentón and picada, cook, stirring, for a minute, then add the wine, brandy, sherry and pastis, and cook until all the liquid evaporates.

Add the potatoes, stir for a minute, then add the stock and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chopped fish, half-cover the pot, and leave to cook for five to seven minutes, until the fish is just cooked through. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, fry the bread slices in a drizzle of olive oil until golden on both sides. Remove from the pan, rub one side of the toast with the halved garlic and serve alongside the hot stew.

Nieves Barragán Mohacho is chef/co-owner of Sabor, London W1

The Guardian aims to publish recipes for sustainable fish. Check ratings in your region: UK; Australia; US.