Some time ago, a supplier turned up at the restaurant with a “new” product for us to sample. It was called Garum and, although it was presented in a very elegant way with modern, stylish packaging in a long, clear bottle and a funky new label, I knew that there was absolutely nothing new about Garum. I remember reading somewhere in an old cookbook that it was almost like a latter day ketchup for the gods in Imperial Rome and garum is actually mentioned in Roman literature as far back as the 3rd and 4th century B.C!
It was basically a fish sauce, not in the sense of something you put on fish, but rather something made from fermenting fish and used as a condiment. In a very similar way to Asian fish sauce, the Roman version was made by layering fish and salt until it ferments, then used to flavour almost anything at the time. The decline of the Roman Empire meant the decline of garum but it still continues to be made in a few places in the Mediterranean, primarily around Naples, where it’s called colatura and although it is now making a bit of a comeback, it’s still not very well known. I think that may be about to change as more and more Chef’s are discovering it’s attraction and it is hotly tipped to be one of the “in” ingredients of 2019.
Whenever I walk around our local fish markets, I can’t help but feel that I’m so lucky to be living in the middle of the Mediterranean. This beautiful, blue sea borders 21 countries from 3 continents; every country has its own favourite fish or seafood dishes that are as diverse and interesting as the countries themselves.
In Spain the fishing villages all along the coastline are famous for their popular fish stews and soups. These include some truly wonderful dishes such as “Suquet de Peix”, “Caldereta” and “Zarzuela”. Zarzuela is the Spanish equivalent of the merging of two legendary French fish soups, bouillabaisse and soupe aux poissons, but there are versions of it all along the Mediterranean coastline. What these refined fishermen’s soups have in common, apart from a mix of seasonal, local fish, is a rich, thick broth based on “sofrito”, a mixture of garlic and onions slow cooked in olive oil. Zarzuela is a wonderful sharing dish. I love that all the preparation can be done in advance. Then, once you’re organised, the cooking is fast, furious and fun. If you go to the market, try to make sure that you buy the fish on the same day as you’re going to make it…you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts. Just make sure you make enough for second helpings and add a teaspoon of Garum if you can find it.
Arroz caldoso de Mariscos (Spanish style seafood rice)
400g short grain rice 1kl fresh mussels, cleaned 300g Dublin bay prawns 200g prawns, cooked and peeled 300g fresh clams, cleaned 300g cooked crab meat 1 medium onion,finely chopped 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped 1 small squid, cleaned and diced 4 garlic cloves, crushed A pinch of fresh saffron A pinch of paprika 100ml olive oil 2litres fish stock Seasoning
1 Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the Dublin bay prawns and fry until they start to colour.
2 Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic cloves and cook over a gentle flame for 1-2 minutes until the onions start to soften.
3 Add the rice, saffron and paprika. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cover with the fish stock.
4 Simmer over a gentle flame for about 10 minutes. Add the mussels, squid and clams. Continue to simmer until the rice is just cooked.
5 Add the cooked prawns and crab meat, season to taste and serve.
To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and logged in
Currently there are no comments.