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Seasonal Recipe of the Week – Cacciucco

24 February 2012
Seasonal Recipe of the Week – Cacciucco

Ingredients
For the Cacciucco
(Serves 8)
2.5 kg (51/2lb) mixed fish (see method), cleaned and cut into chunks if necessary
175ml (3/4 cup) olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 sprig fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small fresh chilli, de-seeded and chopped
500ml (2 cups) red or white wine
300g (11oz) tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
Fish stock (see below), optional
500g (1lb 2oz) mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
Salt and pepper
Toast rubbed with garlic, to serve

For the fish stock
(Serves 4-6)
1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stick, sliced
1 tbs black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1kg (21/4lb) white fish or white fish bones and heads, gills removed
Salt

Method
For the cacciucco
For this fish soup that's typical of Livorno in North-west Italy, you need a few slices of monkfish, a conger or freshwater eel, a few squid or cuttlefish and some mussels.
Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole (Dutch oven), preferably earthenware, add the onion, parsley, garlic and chilli, season with salt and pepper and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the onion is golden brown.

Add the wine and cook for 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the firmer fish (such as eel and monkfish), pour in a little warm water or fish stock and cook over high heat for 10 minutes.

Gradually add the more delicate fish, finishing with the mussels. (Discard any with broken shells or that do not shut immediately when sharply tapped, and any that remain closed after cooking.)

Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with slices of toast rubbed with garlic.

For the fish stock
Pour 2 litres of water into a large saucepan, add the herbs, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns and season with salt. Gradually bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then add the fish (the water should just cover). Return to the heat, bring just to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave the fish to cool in the stock for a stronger flavour. Strain the stock. If using only bones and heads, add to the pan with the herbs and vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly, then strain.

Taken from Fish: Recipes from the Sea

Recommended wine
Cacciucco is an interesting dish to pair up with wine, as red, white and rosé could work equally well. But as its origins lie along Italy's Tyrrhenian coast, I'm going native with a white variety, Vermentino, from an interesting producer called Cima whose vineyards lie in the northern Tuscan hills near Massa.

The Vermentino has an underlying oiliness but a fresh citrus tang, softened by the delicately aromatic Albarola which makes up a fifth of this blend. This is quite a punchy dish with lots of tasty garlic and a deep, brooding tomato stock giving it a colourful Mediterranean kick so this dry, fairly full bodied white with hints of wild herbs is the perfect combination.
Richard Rotti, group wine buyer, Caprice Holdings

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