This is a very quick, one-pot dish, that is full of gorgeous Mediterranean flavors and colors. Serve it with a simple side-salad for lunch or add some rice, potatoes or bread and turn it into a heartier supper dish. Any firm, white fish can be used for this recipe – cod would work well. If you can get it, red mullet would be an excellent choice here. I have chosen halibut, as that is what looked good to me at the market. Halibut is a more expensive fish, and has a dense, yet silky soft texture, but you need to be really careful about over-cooking it, as it can become dry and tough. Cod is the less expensive choice and is a little more forgiving about being slightly over-cooked.
Prepare all the ingredients before you start to cook: slice the red onion and the peppers; crush the garlic and dice the chili. Pit the olives, if necessary, and keep them whole. Season the fish, measure out the oregano, paprika, saffron and seasoning and chop the parsley. That’s it as far as the prep goes. You could even prep it all a few hours earlier and then just cook it when you’re ready to eat.
For the tomato portion of the recipe, you can use whatever tomatoes you like. A fresh, homemade chunky tomato sauce would be ideal, or simply use cans of chopped tomatoes, or a thick tomato sauce, or even whole plum tomatoes. Here, I used two cans of sliced, stewed tomatoes, because that’s what I had in the pantry. Do add the pinch of saffron if you have it – it really adds to make this dish extra special.
This is a very quick dish to prepare – simply season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and add them to a hot pan that’s been heated with about 2 T olive oil. Cook for about 2 minutes over a medium high heat – do not touch the fish for the full 2 minutes, then use a fish slice to turn the fish over and cook the other side for 2 minutes more. Remove it from the pan and put to one side.
Now heat another Tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan and stir fry the onions over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes until starting to color. Add the garlic, followed by the peppers and cook 3 minutes more. Stir in the smoked paprika, oregano and chili and cook for another minute.
Pour in the tomatoes and stir into the pepper mixture. Crumble in the saffron strands and stir, turning up the heat until the tomatoes are bubbling. Use a wooden spoon to mash the tomatoes down a little, then lower the heat to a medium flame. You want the tomatoes to be simmering away, without splashing up and over the pan. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down, have become thicker, with the sauce reduced somewhat.
Now add in the olives, oregano and parsley. Stir once more and then make a space in the pan to allow you to very gently lower in the fish fillets. Spoon some sauce over the top of each fillet. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and allow the fish to complete cooking for about 2-3 minutes or until only just cooked through, – the fish will continue to cook a little more during the plating process, so err on the side of very slightly under-cooked at the point of turning off the heat.
The sauce should be thick and fragrant.
You can either serve in shallow soup bowls and eat with crusty bread and a crisp green side salad for a lighter meal, or serve on a plate alongside potatoes and a green vegetable.
- 2 Firm white fish fillets, deboned and skinned (I used Halibut)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ green pepper, sliced
- ½ orange pepper, sliced
- ½ red pepper, sliced
- 1 small red onion, sliced
- ½ serrano chile, diced
- 12 pitted olives - I used half green and half black
- 2 cans stewed, sliced tomatoes (28oz total) (or equivalent tomatoes of your choice)
- ¼ t salt to season fish
- ¼ t pepper to season fish
- ¼ t smoked paprika
- Large pinch saffron strands
- 2 t dried oregano
- 2 T fresh parsley, plus some to garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Prep the ingredients:
- Season the fish with salt and pepper.
- Slice the peppers and the onions.
- Dice the chile and crush the garlic.
- Take the pits out of the olives, if necessary, but keep them whole.
- Put a large frying pan over a medium high heat and add 1 T olive oil.
- When smoking, add the fillets and leave without touching for 2 minutes.
- Turn the fish and turn down the heat, and cook the fish for another 2 minutes.
- Remove the fish and put on a plate - leave to one side while you cook the rest of the dish.
- Add 2 t olive oil to the same pan and fry the onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and peppers , and smoked paprika and stir-fry for about 3 minutes.
- Add the chile and stir, fry for about a minute more.
- Pour in the tomatoes, turn up the heat and cook until bubbling.
- Add the saffron, crumbling it between your fingers as you drop it in the sauce.
- Stir and turn down the heat to medium, allowing the tomatoes to cook down for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to help break up the tomatoes a little.
- Add the olives and the parsley and stir. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Gently lower in the fish and leave until the fish is completely cooked through - no more than 2-3 minutes.
- Sprinkle with the reserved chopped parsley.
- Serve with a crisp salad and french bread for a light meal, or with a grain or potatoes and a side vegetable for a hearty supper.