I was always so amazed when my Mum would make this stew as child. She would turn a fish head and some scrappy vegetables into the most amazing meal, bulked out with rice to feed our big family. With my dad migrating to Australia from Malta as a young adult, and my mum being first generation Australian (my maternal grandparents also migrated from Malta), making use of ends and bits was normal. It was in fact a celebration of how resourceful the cook could be, to create something satisfying and nourishing for their family.
My version is a little more dressed up than my mother’s version, but can easily be made the same way using basic fish offcuts. Any seafood can be also added, like blue swimmer crab, mussels or scallops (just be aware of cooking times).The combination of fennel and seafood is one that I love. But if you’re not a fennel lover, don’t let it put you off this recipe, I suggest omitting just the fennel seeds, as they are more pungent than the sweet bulb itself.
I really love eating this stew with a grilled baguette rubbed with olive oil and garlic, or as my mum did, with a scattering of rice, which you add raw into the broth 15 or so minutes before serving.
Seafood Stew ingredients. Handmade plates by Jessilla Rogers. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura, Styling – Natalie Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.
Seafood Stew. Handmade plates by Jessilla Rogers. Cutipol Gold Cutlery from Francalia. Recipe – Julia Busuttil Nishimura, Styling – Natalie Turnbull, Photo – Eve Wilson.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura and ceramicist Jessilla Rogers at the table. Photo – Eve Wilson.