Mediterranean Fisherman’s Stew: a CardioKit recipe

courgette and leek sofrito with chilli and lemon seasoning

(photo by Tara Fisher)

This recipe fulfils all of our original fundamental base criteria: (1) delicious, (2) simple accessible everyday ingredients, (3) quick and convenient to prepare, (4) added health benefits.

As warmer seasons are on the horizon, the humble and cheap courgette becomes plentiful. Combined with the even more humble leek and cooked in a sofrito sauce you have the foundation of a genuinely healthy meal without nebulous ‘superfoods’ or evangelical “cauliflower crust pizza” concepts. In fact the combination of olive oil, tomato and garlic which forms the base of sofrito has been specifically implicated as one of the potential advantages of the Mediterranean diet. It has even been used in dietary clinical trials as a measure of a Mediterranean diet and there has been bench interest in the synergistic qualities when these ingredients are combined.

For this recipe we have used cod but any chunky white fish or firm monkfish would be ideal. Although there are certainly issues with sustainability, cod is ingrained in the UK public subconscious as demonstrated by the continued nation’s favourite  —  cod and chips. Nevertheless Icelandic cod is a good product. Additionally although we appreciate that a traditional Fisherman’s Stew will contain less popular fish, we are realists — a lot of people don’t eat fish because of bones and are nervous around whole fish. Therefore in this case we are recommending fresh, meaty fillets from the fishmonger which you can then cut into ‘scallops’ or ‘goujons’. This also means that a little can go a long way in stew like this.

Finally there are 3 options with this meal:

  • scarpetta style  —  eat with a sensible portion of crusty whole meal bread to mop-up the sauce
  • light style  — eat as it is for a light summer dinner or lunch, perhaps with a side salad of greens
  • even healthier style  —  throw in some tinned, tetra-packed or fresh borlotti beans and cook in the stew

. . . and the perfect finish  —  a drizzle of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes to lift and accentuate the flavours.

For 4 people:


  • 4 large or 6 medium courgettes (one large per person) or zucchini if you want to go fully Mediterranean
  • 2 large or 3 medium leeks  —  trimmed and rinsed thoroughly for grit
  • 4 chunky cloves of garlic
  • a jar of tomato passata
  • a chunky fillet of cod loin  —  skinless and boneless
  • a handful of parsley including stalks
  • a wedge of lemon
  • a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper


  1. Cut the courgettes and leek into thick ‘rounds’ lengthways (around 2 cm). Slice the garlic.
  2. In a wide non-stick pan heat a good glug of olive oil and add the sliced veg. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Turn the temperature down so that they ‘sweat’ without colouring. Make a ‘Cartouche’ with some grease-proof paper (to find out how just Google) and pop on top. This slow-cooking process accentuates the natural sweetness of the veg. Check on them every 15 mins and add a splash of water if drying out.
  4. When the veg have softened add the passata. Sprinkle a pinch of dry chilli. Re-cover and cook until meltingly soft (around another 45 mins).
  5. Cut the chunky fish fillet across the length with a sharp knife into ‘scallops’. Taste the sauce  —  grind some extra pepper and if required add more salt. Pop the fish ‘scallops’ around the dish on top of the sofrito sauce. Re-cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Finely chop the parsley. Finish by sprinkling onto the dish with an extra pinch of chilli (especially if you like a little kick) and a squeeze of lemon, (not too much. You don’t want it to tasty lemony but simple to accentuate the sweet flavours).
  7. If you are adding borlotti beans then time according to the specific preparation instructions (e.g. tinned vs tetra-pack). For fresh we would boil separately until soft and then add with the passata.

TIP: The ‘sauciness’ of the dish is important. In the initial stages whilst softening the veg you will need to add a splash of water every so often to keep it ‘sweating’ rather than browning. The same after you add the passata to stop it drying out, but before you add the fish you want the sauce to be thick as the water content of the fish will loosen everything. If necessary you can always add a splash of water at the end and gently stir through without breaking the scallops of fish, (you don’t want a mush of flaked fish and sauce).

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