Marmitako Recipe

Recipe by Neil Morris

marmitako

Region: The Basque Country

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 mins

Oven temp: cooked on hob

Difficulty: medium

Serves: 4

non-veg

Marmitako is a traditional Basque Country stew that has long been a favourite amongst fishermen in the region. Named after a cooking pot, the dish has since made its way into the kitchens and restaurants of Northern Spain.

Other nearby regions have their own versions and every cook in The Basque Country will tell you that their recipe is the best, but the basic principle of the dish remains the same; fish (usually bonito or tuna), peppers, chilli and potatoes.

Okay, before we get started I must point out this version is not a traditional Marmitako; there are plenty of recipes out there for a more traditional version. This is a modern interpretation based on a dish I was once served in a Basque restaurant in Catalonia.

I have used traditional ingredients but have modernised the cooking method and presentation to create a visually pleasing dish that retains all the flavour and character of the original. In fact, I would say this version packs even more of a flavour punch as a result of the methods used.

I have used swordfish in this version as I think it stands up so well to the sauce which is full of flavour and heat. The ingredients can also be used to make a traditional version and I have left notes at the foot of the recipe for those that wish to cook the traditional, slightly easier version of this marmitako dish.

Shopping list

  • olive oil (aceite de oliva)
  • 1 swordfish steak per person (pez espada)
  • 1 onion (cebolla) | 2 garlic cloves (dientes de ajo)
  • 1 green pepper (pimiento verde)
  • 1 pointed red pepper (pimiento rojo)
  • pinch of chilli flakes to taste (hojuelas de chile)
  • 400g tin of tomatoes (tomates enlatados)
  • 2-3 tbsps tomato puree (puré de tomate)
  • 1 large bay leaf (la hoja de laurel)
  • 1 heaped tsp sweet smoked paprika (pimentón dulce)
  • 1/4 tsp of hot smoked paprika *optional* (pimentón picante)
  • 2 medium potatoes per person
  • 1 cup of cider (sidra)
  • salt (sal)
  • freshly ground black pepper (pimienta recién molida negro)
  • parsley (perejil) to garnish

Method

Finely chop the onion and soften in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a low to medium heat, do not brown.

Next add the finely chopped garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes, then add the green and red peppers (again very finely chopped) along with a pinch of chilli flakes to taste (or chopped dried chilli) and stir well.

Note: traditionally this dish would just use green peppers but I also use the red here for added colour and flavour.

After a couple of minutes, add the tinned tomatoes and a heaped teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika.

Note: I like to add a good pinch of hot paprika here as well for an extra dimension of heat and flavour.

Add a finely chopped small potato here (to naturally thicken the sauce) along with the tomato puree and bay leaf, then season, stir and taste before adding the cup of cider. Cover and simmer for 40-45 mins stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil ready for your potatoes. prepare you potatoes in small cylinder shapes for presentation (hint: you can use an apple corer for this), then part boil them for 7-8 mins - they should retain their shape and not start to break up. Once they are done drain them and rinse in cold water to stop them cooking further.

Next, begin to sauté the potatoes gently in 2 tbsps of olive oil, you want to cook them through and keep them nice and golden on the outside without overcooking. Turn them regularly whilst basting them in oil. Once they are done transfer to some kitchen towel to drain and then sprinkle with sea salt and keep warm in a very low oven.

Season the swordfish with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and leave to stand.

Once the sauce is cooked, carefully transfer to a large blender and blend as finely as you can. Next you will need to pass the sauce through a fine metal sieve into a bowl. Keep pushing it through with a wooden spoon and scrape the sauce from the bottom of the sieve at regular intervals. When you feel you cannot get any more sauce through, transfer the perfectly smooth sauce to a clean pan and return to a gentle heat and stir.

Heat a griddle pan to a hot temperature ready for the fish. Once it is hot enough cook each swordfish steak for about 2-3 minutes on either side.

To present the dish, pour enough sauce to easily cover the bottom of a bowl and then arrange the potatoes standing on their edge, cut the swordfish steak in half and arrange one half resting on the other then garnish with neatly cut parsley leaves and droplets of olive oil.

Serve this marmitako with crusty bread and a glass of cold cider.

Any sauce left in the pot can be saved in a jar and used to make a quick version of Patatas Bravas! It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Alternatives

For a more traditional marmitako recipe, use two green peppers and add the uncooked chopped potatoes straight into the sauce at the same time as the cider (or use vegetable stock instead). Leave out the tomato puree and bay leaf and cook the sauce until the potatoes are tender.

You can also add the fish straight to the pot at the same time as the potatoes or griddle the fish seperately and add to the pot a few minutes before serving. Do not blend the sauce just serve as a stew straight into a bowl garnished with parsley.

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