Quick and Easy Cioppino

This is my take on the vibrant, spicy, rich, fisherman’s stew, famous in San Francisco, and devised by immigrant Italian fishermen in the 1800’s who would make this on board their fishing boats.

The word cioppino is derived from the Genoese slang for chopping. It is delicious, and just the thing for these cold, dull wintery evenings — a huge splash of colour and flavour to brighten up the weariest palate!

If you want to make it extra spicy and smoky, add the optional spoon of chillies in adobo sauce: it’s not traditional at all, but it’s deelish!

I bought all the ingredients for this in the supermarket last night, so there’re no excuses!! You can substitute any of the seafood for any other bits of seafood — crab, lobster, squid, clams — I have even had oysters in a cioppino before.

Serve with toasted sourdough bread rubbed with a little garlic and drizzled with some good olive oil.

Serves 4–6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1kg mussels, washed and de-bearded

200g salmon, cut into chunks

400g hake or other white fish, cut into chunks

400g prawns (I used some shell on and some shell off)

1 bulb fennel, washed and chopped

1 stalk of celery, washed and chopped

2 onions, peeled and chopped roughly

4 large or 6 small cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon chipotles in adobo sauce, blitzed (OPTIONAL)*

1 tin chopped tomatoes, with juice

500ml white wine

500ml fish stock/water

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes (add more if you like it HOT)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

small bunch fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

Sort through the washed and de-bearded mussels and dispose of any that stay open when you tap them. Set the rest aside with the fish and prawns

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan or deep casserole. Sauté the fennel, onion and celery until softened slightly. Add the garlic, tomato paste, chipotle in adobo (if you’re using it), fennel seeds, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and chilli flakes and stir to combine. Add the tinned tomatoes, wine and stock/water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Taste and then add salt and pepper. Taste again and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Now add the mussels, bring back to the boil and put the lid on. Let them cook for about 3–5 minutes. Add the prawns and the fish and bring back up to the boil — the fish and prawns will cook really quickly so don’t overdo it: another 3–5 minutes or so should do the job.

Check one last time for seasoning.

Ladle into big warmed bowls, sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve with the toasted garlicky sourdough on the side and a glass of rich white wine — maybe a Chablis or a Meursault.

* TIP: I buy tins of La Morena brand chipoltle in adobe in bulk every time I’m in LA. It’s heavenly, and so versatile. You can buy them directly from mexgrocer.com or you can get The Cool Chile Company’s version too.