Life’s a Feast: Seafood Soup with Saffron

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Saffron is the defining flavour in this simple yet delicious seafood recipe. With its beautiful bright yellow colour, luxurious taste and unique aroma, it is one of the most revered and expensive spices in the world.

This is due to the difficulty of cultivating the three tiny stigma (or thread) present in the plant’s flower. The must be hand-picked lovingly, usually by the elderly women of the towns and villages where this is grown – mainly in Iran. This dish is perfect for these freezing evenings, and although easy to create, its flavours are sophisticated enough that it can be served up at a dinner party. Enjoy!

PREP TIME: 10 MINS

COOK TIME: 20 MINS

SERVES: 5-6 PEOPLE

Ingredients

2 medium onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 good-sized fennel, thinly sliced (save the frond for garnish)

125ml white wine

1.5l good quality fish or vege stock(I used Simon Gault fish stock)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Good pinch of saffron

1 can chopped tomatoes

90g (or cup) of Arborio rice

500g clams

3 fillets monk fish (or similar firm fish)

12-16 prawns

Juice of half a lemon

Method

1. Heat a large pot with 4 tablespoons of oil to a medium heat. Add in your onions and garlic and stir for 4-5 minutes until it is softened but not browned.

2. Add in your fennel and cook for 3-4 minutes. Next, pour in the white wine and simmer until it is half-absorbed (about 3 minutes).

3. Add 1250ml of your stock (saving one cup), all the paste, canned tomatoes, saffron and rice and thoroughly combine. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the rice is cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, cook your clams. Pour the cup of stock into a pot or pan with a lid and bring to the boil. Tip in the clams and pop on the lid. Boil for 1-2 mins until the shells open, then remove immediately from the liquid (keeping the stock) and put on to the plate. Pour the rest of the stock through a sieve back into the soup.

5. Slice your fish into bite-size pieces about 2cm long. Leave only the tails on your prawns and slice from the tip up to the tail, but only halfway through the body so it is not completely in half. This allows it to cook faster and looks better for your presentation.

6. Once the rice is cooked, bring your soup up to a full boil and put in the fish. Cook for about 2 minutes before adding the prawns. Cook for a further two minutes until the prawns and fish are cooked, then put in the clams just to re-warm.

7. Squeeze in lemon juice to taste, season if needed and serve immediately. Evenly spread around the seafood and rice and serve with steaming hot bread.

NB:The key to this soup is to not overcook the seafood. Also, if you let it sit too long before serving, the rice will absorb a lot of the liquid, so you can just add in a little more fish stock if need be.