January has been a month. It seems like it has been for everyone around North America. From freak snowstorms, to flooding, to polar vortex and Silent Hill-esque fog – We’ve hit that point of winter where it exists, and there is nothing fun to go along with it. So I, like my predecessors, longed for the warmth of sunshine, beaches, Paella and dozens of sunburnt Brits poorly pronouncing words in Spanish. This led me to put together a winter-relieving Fish Stew.

Fish Stews are hugely popular for most costal populations. Growing up in the Midwest, I had not had a fresh ocean fish until I was an adult. So when we moved to England in 2016, I could not comprehend how affordable fish was. It is an island after all. So when we were planning this recipe and knowing we needed to move on to Southern Europe, I talked to my resident Archaeologist about winter fishing.

All the fish in Spain…

Basque Country, a portion of Spain and the Iberian Peninsula has long been considered the origin of much we know of prehistoric Europeans. When it comes to the food they ate, we’ve always had meticulous evidence of shellfish and land/air creatures, but fish remains; they remained a mystery.

Based on Archaeological evidence of materials used to obtained fish, and their proximity to water, we know they would have fished their local area. The species of fish, however, depended on more lab-related science, specifically, identifying the genetic markers to show they had access to a diverse quantity of fish even during the Paleolithic, and even as time went on – began the principles of farming fish.

What makes a Spanish Fish Stew, 9th Century?

I know – What an arbitrary timeline, especially when the above paragraph is talking about the Paleolithic – but bear with me. This recipe focuses heavily on ingredients present in Spain in the 9th century, because they would be the most familiar to modern Spanish cooking, along with closer to the regional source (i.e. long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in 1492).

The main ingredient that I’m speaking of is Saffron.

Saffron is a contentious topic in this house. I love it, while Bradly – Likes it less. It’s not to say he hates it, but he finds me too heavy-handed with it. Which, as we know, saffron should not be used that way (Not in this economy!).

With this, we’ve covered the history of Saffron before, but with its relation to Spain, we know that it arrived between the 8th and 10th century c.e. from the Asia Minor. It was used by other regions of the Mediterranean earlier than that, but we have no evidence that it wandered into Spain until then.

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Meghan’s Review

4 out of 5 stars

I adored this Fish Stew. It was so light and easy to make. To be honest, I was a bit afraid of the fresh mussels. However, once we knew what we were doing, it wasn’t too hard. Overall, this dish was tasty and comforting, but I can see why modern day versions of this are full of tomato and potatoes, because after a bit, you were quite a bit hungry. But that can always be fixed with bread!

Bradly’s Review

3 out of 5 stars

Fish and mussels, what a combo. Having grown up in Kansas, where seafood was expensive; I have enjoyed living closer the sea, but I would prefer to be living on it. Regardless, vegetable we chose for the Fish Stew was my problem. I am not a fan of licorice and that is what the fennel tasted like to me. I think that if we had used celery the meal would have been near perfect. I give this meal 3 out of 5 closed mussels.


I'm an IT Product Owner who enjoys playing video games, cooking and painting.

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