May has been oppressive. Apparently this May has been a five-year high of heat and humidity in Kolkata. But why should we be the only one to stew in this heat? I had Basa, I had prawns. I decided they should stew too. I took inspiration from the fact that fennel seeds and tomatoes are best friends in Mediterranean countries, or so I am told. I wanted to experiment with that.
In a mass marriage ceremony, I put together a fish and prawn stew with fennel seeds, leek, garlic, potato, tomato and a splash of Pernod, the lovely aniseed flavoured liquor.
And what a union it was! Sweet spicy fennel, tart tangy tomato, mealy potato, chunky fish and succulent prawn. All bound together by the Oh! so subtle allium that is leek.
And it turned out to be even better the next day when the ingredients had that much more time to know each other and mingle better.
Here is how I did it and what I used. 4 medium overripe tomaotes squished in a bowl to get the juice and pulp. I keep the seeds. You can discard them if you like.
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 medium potato diced in cubes
½ a stalk of young leek, chopped
4 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon of fennel seeds
½ of a Basa fillet, about 300 gms, cut in small cubes
3 large prawns (actually, I had one very large and two medium sized ones.), heads removed
A splash of Pernod (Don’t worry if you don’t have it. I had it so I flaunted it)
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to cook
I heated up about 2 tablespoon of EVOO in a pan and let the fennel seeds splutter in that. Quickly sautéed the leek, the potato and the garlic with the fennel seeds. Then poured in the tomato and brought the whole thing to a boil, adding salt and pepper.
Added the tomato puree and let it cook till the potatoes were tender, covered. You may need to top up with some water if the tomatoes are not juicy enough. You should have a lovely, thick fragrant sauce. Ease in the fish and the prawn and gently cover them with the sauce. Now is the tricky part where you have to resist overcooking the lovely soft fish and the prawns.
A couple of minutes on the simmer and then turn the heat off but keep the pan covered and warm. The fish and prawns will continue to cook as long as the sauce is warm. Now have the stew with either bread or even a bowl of brown rice. I had corn bread so I could really mop up all that lovely sauce.