Zarzuela a la Catalana – Catalan Fish Stew

Zarzuela a la Catalana – Catalan Fish Stew

This recipe,  together with the lentils recipe, was suggested by my sister in law, Avril, who has spent many years living in Spain.   I thought it might be a little exotic for Darien but it proved to be the star of the show at the DCA Spanish Art Lectures, and the first dish to be finished.  Even when all the fish was gone the sauce was still superb, mopped up with some crusty bread.  This dish exemplifies true regional cuisine, which makes use of the ingredients close to hand.  In Italy this tends to be tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, France gives up garlic, wine and onions. Scotland is all about oatmeal. The secret to the fabulous sauce is the Picada, an unusual puree of roasted almonds, roasted hazelnuts, fried bread and parsley; who knew?

Now with all good regional food the quantities and types of seafood I give in the recipe are simply a guideline, feel free to substitute with what is to hand.

Ingredients serves 4-6

  • large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 2 gloves of garlic. diced
  • 8 ounces squid, cleaned and sliced – I have found some great frozen squid in Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods
  • 3 1/2 cups wine or wine and seafood stock or clam juice
  • a little tomato paste
  • 10-12 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound white fish, your choice cut in to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 dozen clams
  • 2 dozen mussels
  • Spanish Brandy
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
  • one slice fried bread
  • Salt and Pepper


In a large skillet or paella pan sauce the onions in some olive oil until transparent.  Add the squid and garlic and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Off the heat add a splash of brandy and flame carefully. Once the flame has gone out add the wine, tomato paste, salt and pepper and cook for a further 15 minutes.  Add the remaining fish, shrimp clams and mussels and simmer gently, covered until all the shells have opened and the shrimp is fully cooked.  Whilst the fish stew is simmering, take the almonds, hazelnuts and fried bread together with some chopped parsley and olive oil and, using a food processor,  grind to a thick paste. When the stew is ready add the hazelnut and almond mixture and serve with some lovely crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

If you try this or any other recipe on my  website I would love feedback.  If you like this recipe feel free to pass it on.




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