Summer Recipes Fish

Mediterranean fish stew with saffron mayonnaise


Every French fisherman, Italian grandmother or coastal restaurant has their own recipe for fish stew, or soup, and I love to try them all. When it comes to cooking it at home, I always aim to adapt the inspiration to make it suit the ingredients that I can find. If there’s no mullet and the  fishmonger has some good hake, I’ll use that instead. The main thing to remember is to achieve a balance of firm, sweet fleshed and shelled fish that impart the maximum flavour to the broth. The saffron mayonnaise stirred in at the end gives the dish another layer of richness and texture.

These recipes originally appeared in House & Garden magazine, photos courtesy of Andrew Montgomery.



  • For the saffron mayonnaise:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 290ml olive oil
  • 1 pinch saffron, crushed and soaked in 1tbsp hot water
  • Lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • For the tomato base:
  • 600g fresh tomatoes (about 5 medium sized)
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • Sea salt
  • Pinch of hot chilli flakes
  • For the mussels and clams:
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 600g mussels, cleaned and beards removed, broken ones discarded
  • 800g clams, rinsed and heavy or broken clams discarded
  • Glass of white wine, 200ml (try to choose a light fruity wine without too much acidity)
  • For the rest of the stew:
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 12 scallops, cleaned and out of the shell
  • Flaked sea salt
  • 600g fillets of firm white fish, (mullet, bream, bass, gurnard, hake) cut into finger sized pieces
  • 20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • To serve:
  • Garlic clove, cut in half
  • 6 large slices of white sourdough, toasted


  • For the saffron mayonnaise: put the egg yolk in a bowl and whisk while adding a thin stream of oil until the mixture thickens and emulsifies. Add the saffron and water that it was soaked in, continue to whisk and add the salt and lemon juice, a teaspoon at time, tasting as you go. You should achieve a good balance of richness, acidity and salt. Set aside in a cool place.
  • For the tomato base: Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds then refresh under cold water and slip off the skins with your fingers. Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out the seeds and cut out any white core and discard these. Roughly chop the peeled tomato flesh.
  • Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and cook the garlic briefly, so it just starts to colour around the edges. Add the tomatoes and a good pinch of salt and cook, mashing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon so they break apart, for about 10 minutes until you have a relatively smooth sauce. Add pepper, chilli flakes and more salt if necessary.
  • For the mussels and clams:

Choose a large saucepan with a lid and put it on a high heat. When it is very hot, add the oil, the mussels, clams and the wine and cover with the lid. Allow this to cook for a minute or so, giving it a gentle shake, until the shells just start to open.

  • Remove from the heat and transfer the shellfish, still in their shells, into a bowl and set aside, covering to keep warm, but leaving the liquid in the pan. Return the pan to the heat and boil the liquid to reduce it slightly and to cook off the alcohol flavour of the wine. You won’t need to season it as there will be plenty of saltiness from the shellfish.
  • Add the tomato sauce to the shellfish liquid and 1.2 litres of water and heat them together to make a delicately flavoured broth.
  • For the rest of the stew:

Pat dry and season the scallops on both sides with flaked salt. Heat a frying pan until very hot and add a little oil. Fry the scallops until they are nicely browned but haven’t become completely firm, this should take a couple of minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  • Bring the tomato-mussel broth the boil and then add the mullet pieces, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, turning down the heat to allow the fish to cook gently – this will only take a minute or so. It’s best to undercook them slightly so they don’t fall apart when you assemble the stew. Add the scallops to the broth.
  • When you are ready to serve, divide the mussels and clams between 6 large soup plates and spoon over the hot fish broth and fish pieces. Rub the garlic on the toasted bread and drizzle with oil. Serve each bowl with the bruschetta and a large dollop of saffron mayonnaise to stir into the broth.


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