A Spanish-inspired casserole of butter beans, fish, and red peppers…

If I say so myself, this, the original version, is a great dish https://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/hake-with-judion-de-la-granja-paella-rice-and-tomatoes/

However, worsening disability requires a simplified version as the prep is just way too much work (and good hake is very hard to get hold of – we ship most of our catch to Spain), so that’s the task for this weekend, using Pollack.

Asda sells decent-quality skinless frozen Pollack fillets at £4 for a 900g bag, so I’ll be using some of that (you need a fish that’s not going to disintegrate in the stew, and I find that cheaper species, like Pollack or Coley, hold together reasonably well. Flavour is OK too – a tad more assertive than Hake, perhaps, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This was originally inspired

by the cooking of Spain, specifically by Claudia Roden’s magisterial (and Spoonies beware – it’s heavy at just 4oz short of 4lb**), book, The Food of Spain – A Celebration. An excellent and informative work that places the traditional dishes of Spain in their historical context.

**When Amazon promised a Kindle version last summer I gave my copy to a friend who was leaving for Spain. Amazon reneged, and the Kindle version shows no sign of ever coming, so I recently bought another copy. Not helpful, Amazon.

It wasn’t until months later I discovered that a similar dish does actually exist in the Spanish culinary canon. Ah well – as I said in a previous post, there’s little that’s original in the world of food these days – if something is worth doing, it probably has been.

So, anyway, click the link above and you can see the original version. What follows is my simplified version, which is just as good – I’ve already made it a couple of times and it works very well – so I thought it was time to write it down.

The paella rice, in the original, was a problem, as it tends to stick with great enthusiasm. This, apparently, is desirable in a paella, but it’s not what I want, so the rice is gone.

Also, cooking root vegetables in a tomato-based sauce is purgatorial – they take forever, so it’s essential to cook the veg in stock before adding the passata, which has replaced the baby plum tomatoes. The Judion de la Granja beans – which take an age to cook – have been replaced with Napolina canned butter beans, the difference is undetectable.

This is the new recipe, for which you’ll need (this will fill a 3-litre casserole/pan):-

2 good-sized Sweet Spear carrots, peeled and sliced

3 large Echalion shallots (or two medium onions), chopped (see below)

2 generous tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon ground coriander

50g  clarified butter

A splash of olive oil

½ teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon Knorr Touch of Taste Chicken

1 or 2 Kallo vegetable stock cubes, to taste

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 garlic cloves (optional), peeled and squashed with the flat of a knife blade

2  500g packs Napolina passata

2 teaspoons of sugar

500g Pollack, skinned and pin-boned and cut into bite-sized pieces. Coley is good too.

2 Romano sweet red peppers (the long, pointed, kind)

3 400g cans Napolina butter beans, rinsed and drained

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Optional – a couple of dozen pitted black olives


And this is what you do with it:-

Cut the shallots into postage-stamp sized pieces (about a centimetre square) – in a stew this elevates them above their normal status of anonymous aromatics, lurking at the bottom of the pot, and makes them part of the whole. Heat the butter and oil, add the chopped shallots, and cook gently until soft but not coloured.

Stir in the paprika and coriander, adding a little more oil if it looks dry, and cook gently for a few minutes. Add everything down to, and including, the garlic.

Add enough boiling water to just cover, stir well, bring back to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots are almost soft, then add the chopped peppers.

The Garlic: At this point you can either remove it and throw it away, or you can mash the soft cloves with a little of the cooking liquid, and stir back in – which would be my choice.

Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a further 15 minutes then add one pack of passata and a teaspoon of sugar, and the fish.

Return to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes, then add the beans very carefully so you don’t break up the fish. Add the second pack of passata (or as much as you have room for – any left-over passata will freeze), and the other spoon of sugar. Leave over a low heat so that the beans heat through – for about 15 minutes – you don’t want to boil it any further, then remove from the heat.

Set aside to cool and, when cold, refrigerate until the following day – all soups and stews are improved by this, as it give the flavours time to snuggle up and get to know each other. Reheat gently, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.

When using canned beans it’s always best to check the seasoning the next day, as they can leak a little salt into the stew overnight.

The olives are optional, of course, but they go well in almost any casserole or stew, be it fish, meat, or vegetarian.

NB: The fish will break up a little – it’s unavoidable – so don’t worry about it, it’ll still be good.