Written by Mark Watkins on March 1, 2012
February is a really good time for fish in Ibiza. The market belies this, as half the stalls are closed up for holidays but the fish that is available from the ones left open is cheaper and fresher than in the summer. I had to do a tasting for some clients who wanted to try four different fish starters for their wedding in July. I also had to make a fish stew for a dinner party that was to be filmed with yours truly as Mutfak le Chef. So it was to the market I went.
And there I did see: Shimmering little red mullets with black shiny eyes, vicious scorpion fish looking poisonous mean, sleek mackerel with rainbows on their backs, biblical John Dorys, long meaty monkfish tails weighing upwards of four kilos, blah blah blah, mucho pescado. In short, the stalls that were open were piled high with God’s bounty of the sea.
When I am making fish stew I like to use heavy boned, firm fleshed fish and the market is a jolly good place to go for them. I bought a mix of ready cut John Dory, grouper and monkfish and then went looking for something for the stock. You don’t really have to make a stock if you have this type of fish but it inevitably makes it richer and deeper in flavour if you do. So I usually make a stock with the readily available monkfish heads. I take these fabulously ugly mothers and boil them for a fully verboten 45 minutes to an hour. This does make for a cloudy stock yes, but it also makes it stupendously luscious.
The stew itself can be wonderfully simple – fry the fish a bit and remove, then sweat some onion, garlic and herbs until soft, put the fish back in, burn off some brandy over them and then cook out a little white wine before adding the stock and cooking the fish till just done. There are a thousand things you could do as well but this will be damn good as is. Spoon too much proper allioli over it and you will have a good day.
As I was saying, I had to do a tasting for some clients so got some other fish for a ceviche – dorada, prawns and tuna. Ceviche is, as far as I know, a Mexican dish and one of the few things I enjoyed eating when I had the pleasure of nearly dying there several years ago. Gun toting police and thieves make that one scary country but eating a ceviche on a long sandy pacific beach at sunset provided a much needed and delicious respite from the ever-present ominous atmosphere
Wanting to recreate that moment of tranquility I cubed the tuna; shelled, split and de-veined the prawns; filleted, skinned and sliced the dorada. I put them in a bowl, squeezed lime juice and poured masses of olive oil over them. I then threw in some cucumber, chilli, cherry tomatoes, finely sliced spring onion and copious coriander. I seasoned it heavily, mixed it all up and served it. Dem some lucky clients.