Tuscan Fish Stew – a firm family favourite


Tuscan fish stew; the ultimate favourite in our house, well amongst everyone except Max (Richard’s son, the fussy eater) who opted for sausage and chips over this delicious feast… I despair I really do. We also had a rather heated 20 minute debate about him not wanting a vegetable with his sausage and chips, he was given the option of beans or peas – “neither”  he stubbornly exclaimed. Now this just doesn’t wash in Miss Friday’s house, everyone has to have vegetables and that’s that! Daisy (Richard’s daughter), on the other hand, well she devoured the fish stew.

You may recall that I have posted this recipe before, but as it’s so popular I’ve tweaked it a few times and thought there was no harm in sharing it once more. I honestly think that each time I cook this dish Richard falls in love with me a little bit more. I joke. But he does love it, and he always comments and makes sure I know how much he enjoyed it – then again they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In this case, I think it’s true. Few things make me happier than pleasing Richard with food. Given that he’s an excellent cook, there is often stiff competition – but he will never cook this one as well as I do. Note: that’s confidence, rather than arrogance.

What I love most is the lightness of the dish, it has such a fresh delicate flavour. It’s really not the sort of meal that sits on your stomach for hours after, which is a welcome relief after all the heavy festive foods that we’ve experienced over the past couple of months. Let’s face it, we all have leftover Christmas cake – and it has to be eaten right?

I’d advise you to buy the freshest fish you can afford, the flavours in the stew are so simple because it’s really all about letting the fish shine through. We bought the fish from a local market in Saffron Walden. Known for being a market town and famous for it’s rich heritage of buildings dating back to the medieval times, Saffron Walden is well worth a visit if your in the area. The market is held every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the year and hosts a wonderful array of stalls for foodies, everything from olives, meats, breads, fish and a huge fruit and vegetable stall (if you can bear the noisy del-boy esque market trader).


Tuscan Inspired Fish Stew
Recipe type: Fish
Cuisine: Tuscan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • Fresh fish (such as haddock, mussels, clams and king prawns)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 2 medium red chillies, finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Ciabatta loaf, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped in half
  • A handful of grated parmesan cheese
  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion until softened – around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, fish stock and chillies and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile lightly toast the Ciabatta slices on both sides, rub them with a clove of garlic, pressing down firmly on the bread to flavour it with garlic. Top each slice with a little parmesan and return to the grill to melt.
  4. Meanwhile, add the seafood starting with the white fish, followed by the shellfish, lemon and parsley. Place the lid firmly on the casserole dish and allow to cook until the mussels and clams have fully opened and the fish is cooked through (this doesn't take long). Serve in warmed bowls with the cheesy garlic croutons.




Tuscan Inspired Fish Stew with Cheesy Croutons

“That’s the best thing you’ve ever made for me” said the boyfriend to the girlfriend – WOW – what a statement! Obviously I’m more than happy with that. Hopefully you’ll love this recipe as much as Richard did. I must say I rather enjoyed it myself. It’s a tomato based fish stew with delicious cheesy garlic croutons. If you’re watching your weight (it is January after all), then you can have this stew without the croutons, but I’m sure one wouldn’t hurt.
I absolutely love seafood, especially mussels and prawns, but you really could make this with any fish, monkfish would work very well as it’s about as robust as fish comes, making it perfect for stew. This is a Tuscan recipe, inspired by a recipe I found in my Italian Cookery Course book and resembles many fish stews. I decided to make it using a cooked seafood selection, which makes it super quick and fuss free; no shelling and pre-cooking necessary.
There is something quite wonderful about a crispy, cheesy garlic crouton to mop up your deliciously fresh fish stew. I popped in a couple of finely chopped green finger chillies too, which isn’t typically Italian, but it really works. You get a devilishly spicy note which makes this dish perfect for a cold evening. If you don’t like very spicy food then you can omit the chillies, or take the seeds out – but I simply love spicy food.
Cooked seafood selection (mussels, prawns and squid)
3 tbsp olive oil
Red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200ml white wine (preferably something Italian)
400g chopped tomatoes
750ml fish stock
2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
Parsley to garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ciabatta loaf, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped in half
A handful of grated cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino)
Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion until softened – around 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and chilli and cook for 10 minutes. Add the fish stock and leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile lightly toast the Ciabatta slices on both sides, and then rub them with the sliced clove of garlic, pressing down firmly on the bread to flavour it with garlic. Top each slice with a little cheese and return to the grill to melt.

Meanwhile add the seafood and parsley leave for a few minutes then serve in warmed bowls with the cheesy garlic croutons. 

Paprika Chicken – Hairy Biker’s Style

In keeping with my healthy theme for January, I thought I’d call upon the help of my old friends the Hairy Bikers and one of their recipes that’s become such a go-to in my kitchen. This recipe is great because it’s not only healthy, it’s cheap and super quick to prepare when you find yourself in the midweek rush. Grab yourself some chicken drumsticks and thighs (skin on) from the supermarket, or even a whole chicken that you can joint yourself if you are okay with that, this is usually an even cheaper way of cooking a recipe like this and is perfect for a family meal. I often buy a whole chicken and have Richard joint it when we have his children at weekends as we love making a delicious chicken tikka masala, it works out great value for money. The kids can’t get enough; I think it’s the sweet red onions and the fact that I purée the sauce until it’s smooth and thick.
Whatever I’m cooking I like to have leftovers for my lunches at work, so I often make more than I need, and this recipe is perfect for that, it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. The recipe suggests using a blend of sweet and hot paprika, but if you’ve only one kind, such as smoked that’s fine, you will still get that rich red, beautiful paprika hit that that is oh so good with the sweet vibrant red peppers. The bright sunny colours in this dish remind me of the Mediterranean, perfect for warming your heart and belly on a winter’s night. And, you’ll certainly not feel as if you’re having a healthy meal when cooking up this gorgeous stew, the sweetness and spice work wonderfully together and you can still have a small fluffy mound of mashed potato to mop up the rich tomato paprika sauce; just go easy on the butter!

Click here for the Hairy Bikers Paprika Chicken Recipe!


Delicious Herby Dumplings

“I’m so sad its Friday. I wish it was Monday already!” 
said no one in history, ever!
Hurrah for the weekend my fellow foodies. I’ve been a little lapse on the blogging front lately, mainly because I’ve been dining out far too much, so I thought it was time I got back into my kitchen and churned out some culinary delights. Well, I say my kitchen, but I’ve actually commandeered my boyfriend’s kitchen of late. This is for one of two reasons, firstly because it’s a beautiful big kitchen and secondly because his flat is closer to the pub, about 10 metres away to be precise.  
In other news, Miss Friday has been busy writing an exciting foodie article for a local magazine, which is due its first publication next week. I was asked by a gentleman that frequents my local pub if I’d be interested in contributing and knowing what an avid foodie I am, he knew I’d jump at the chance.
So this week has been delightful as far as the weather is concerned, well that was until today of course.  And when the weather decides to turn grim and the sky is full of heavy cloud, there are very few things that cheer me up, but comfort food certainly works a treat. Think thick hearty stew and tasty sausage casserole with a huge pile of creamy mashed potatoes, or better still, fluffy and delicious herby dumplings.
The humble dumpling has a way of making everything seem better on a cold and drizzly day. They are simply great for turning a stew or casserole into a warm and satisfying meal. What I love most about this recipe is that it’s actually relatively healthy; I mean who could resist a stodgy dumpling anyway, let alone when it contains only half the calories of your average one?  Made with milk and flour these little beauties are a lighter way to enjoy comfort food. And, you only need a few ingredients.
You can plop these little morsels of fluffiness into your sausage casserole, beef or lamb stew or even your coq au vin. They take around 20 minutes to puff up and transform your meal into a hearty feast. Obviously, you can leave them longer if you like a crispy edge, but for me they are best enjoyed when they are fluffy and soft and soak up all those delicious stew juices.

100g self raising flour
½ tsp salt
1 and ½ tsp olive oil
A small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
3 tsp snipped fresh chives
60ml semi-skimmed milk
To make the dumplings, add all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Then divide the mixture to make 8 small balls (these will double in size when they cook).

When your stew has 20 minutes left to cook, add the dumplings and cover with the lid. You can remove the lid for the last 5 minutes so they become golden brown on top if you prefer. 


Minced Beef Pie

Pastry is definitely my one weakness; I just adore the buttery, soft flakiness of it. Okay, so it’s probably not my only weakness, but you have to admit it’s pretty hard to beat.
I had planned to make a cottage pie last week, but the urge to have pastry seemed to have got the better of me, so here we are with a recipe for minced beef pie. This really takes me back to my childhood; I had a friend whose mum used to make these wonderful minced beef and onion pies, amongst other tasty things. This pie is so simple to make, yet so delicious and comforting.
There is a distinct joy that comes with watching your pie puff up while the pasty browns. Now, I know for some (the pie perfectionists out there) nothing less than a perfect looking pie will do. But, when the pie mix sprits out of my pie and drips down the side of the dish I think it looks even more appetising. What is it they say on the Lurpack advert…?
 ‘Be proud of your puffed up pie’.

400g lean beef mince
1 sheet of short crust pastry
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
2 garlic cloves chopped
500ml beef stock
500ml passata
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 onions roughly chopped
3 large carrots roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery roughly chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Marmite
Handful of fresh parsley roughly chopped
2 egg yolks beaten
Handful frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and herbs, cook for a further 10 minutes.
At this point it is wise to remove your pastry from the fridge; it will be easier to work with if it’s not too cold. However do not allow the pastry to get warm; it will become gummy (useless).
Coat the beef pieces in flour, ensuring they are fully coated. Place in a casserole dish with the oil and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once the vegetables have begun to soften, add the beef and fry until browned (at this point you can add a good glug of red wine if you like). Add the stock, passata and chopped tomatoes. Give it all a good stir before adding the Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, salt and pepper.
Transfer your mixture to a pie dish and cover with the sheet of pastry. By all means create a design for the top with your scraps of pastry. Separate 2 egg yolks and whisk in a small bowl, brush onto the pastry. Cook in the oven at 180⁰C for 35-40 minutes. Serve with peas and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.
Serves:                                  4
Preparation Time:               15 minutes
Cooking Time:                     35 minutes


Beef & Red Wine Stew

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are falling and my appetite is crying out for stew. This hearty dish is just great for a cold night. Shut the front door, kick of your shoes and find your slippers.
It takes very little time to prepare, and then it’s into the oven for 2-3 hours while you pour yourself a glass of full bodied red wine and find a good film to get stuck into. The chunky root vegetables really give this stew a hearty feel and the slow cooking (and red wine) transforms the stewing steak so that it melts in your mouth. Slow cooking the meat keeps it flavourful and tender, I am lead to believe that stewing steak generally comes from the top shoulder of the animal, which is why it is tough meat and best cooked in a stew slowly.
Serve the stew with really fresh crusty bread and lashings of butter, or that healthier margarine stuff if you prefer.  Although, I recently read an article in which the health benefits of eating margarine over butter where questioned. Anyway, health benefits aside, I prefer real butter.

450g stewing steak
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp marjoram
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
500ml beef stock
500ml red wine (something you’d drink)
5 shallots roughly chopped
3 large carrots roughly chopped
2 parsnips roughly chopped
1 large potato roughly chopped
Can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Handful of pearl barley
Handful of fresh parsley roughly chopped
Handful frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coat the beef pieces in flour, ensuring they are fully coated. Place in a casserole dish with the oil and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Using the same pan, add the potato, shallots, carrots, parsnips, herbs and bay leaves, fry for 5-7 minutes. Return the beef to the pan then add the red wine, stock and chopped tomatoes. Cover and place in a preheated oven (200⁰C) for 2-3 hours.
When the stew has about 20 minutes remaining add the pearl barley, parsley and frozen peas. Stir through the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and season to taste. Continue cooking for 20 minutes. Serve in a deep bowl with crusty bread.
Serves:                                  4
Preparation Time:              15 minutes
Cooking Time:                    2-3 hours


Gizzi’s coq au vin with herby dumplings

This is simply one of the best indulgence meals, a real must for a dinner party, and the best part is that you can do all the prep before hand. Once it’s in the oven, all you have to do is wait an hour (oh and pop the dumplings in when the stew has 20 minutes left).

The sauce is wonderfully rich from the wine and the chicken is so soft and tender from being cooked for so long. When you cut open the chicken thighs, they are a rich dark brown/red on the outside but a gorgeous white in the middle. 
There are a lot of different textures in the dish, the soft chicken, the silky sauce, the little pieces of bacon and the soft, chewy dumplings. The dumplings a delicious and soak up some of the flavours whilst cooking.  And, this absolutely has to be washed down with lots of good red wine!

For Gizzi’s Recipe click here!


Sausage casserole with homemade Irish soda bread

This rich sausage casserole partners wonderfully with homemade Irish soda bread and lots of red wine. It is perhaps a little time consuming to make on a weeknight, but that doesn’t stop me. The soda bread can be cooked alongside the casserole so that everything is ready together. The effort is in the preparation with this recipe so find yourself a few good tracks on the iPod and get cracking!

Soda bread is so easy to make, with only four ingredients; it’s rustic and delicious, making it the perfect accompaniment to your sausage casserole. Unlike other breads, the raising agent is bicarbonate of soda; no yeast is needed.
And, in case you’re interested, Irish folk law has it that you should cut a cross in the top of the bread before baking to let the devils (or fairies) out, but I happen to think it is done to help the bread rise. 
For the sausage casserole                                               
2 tbsp olive oil
6 sausages
2 large shallots sliced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 red peppers roughly chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can baked beans
1 can butter beans
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp smoked paprika
300ml chicken stock
100ml red wine
Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the sausages for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown, transfer to a casserole dish.
  3. Fry the shallots in a pan until golden brown, stirring continuously, add the garlic for the last 3 minutes.
  4. Stir through the smoked paprika for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, herbs and red peppers.
  5. Pour over the wine and bring to a simmer.
  6. Tip into the casserole dish with the sausages, cover and place in the oven on 200ºC for 30 minutes.
  7. Stir in the beans and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, until the casserole has thickened.
  8. Season to taste and serve with homemade crusty Irish soda bread (recipe below).
Serves:                           2
Preparation time:         10 minutes
Cooking time:               40 minutes

For the Irish soda bread                              
450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400ml buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in most of the buttermilk.
  4. Mix together with your hands. The dough should be very soft but not too wet. If necessary, add the remaining buttermilk.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly. Shape into a 15cm round.
  6. Place the dough on a greased baking tray, cut a cross in the top and place in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. When the bread is done it will sound hollow if tapped on the bottom.
Preparation time:             5 minutes
Cooking time:                  30 minutes


Boiled Bacon in Ginger Ale (smoked gammon joint)

This is the perfect lazy Sunday lunch. Given that my boyfriend and I are both from Irish descent; it’s no surprise that we love this recipe. It’s my take on boiled bacon, cabbage and spuds, I replace the cabbage for carrots and cook the gammon slowly in ginger ale for at least an hour. The carrots soak up the sweet flavour of the ginger ale; it really is so simple, yet incredibly delicious. 

750g smoked gammon joint
2 litres of dry ginger ale or ginger beer
6 large carrots
2 large onions
15 cloves
10 black peppercorns
2lbs / 900g Mozart potatoes (the red skinned ones)
A splash of milk or single cream and a knob of butter
Pinch of salt and pepper


  1. Make 15 small incisions in the gammon joint and pop the cloves into the holes. Place the gammon into a large pot (about twice the depth of the joint). Add the peppercorns and cover with ginger ale. The liquid should cover all of the meat; if the meat isn’t covered just top it up with cold water, even if you use equal parts ginger ale and water that is fine.
  2. Peel the carrots and chop in half. If you are using smaller carrots keep them whole, they cook for long enough so don’t need to be too small. Cut the onions into quarters and add them to the pot with the carrots slotting them in around the gammon.
  3. Set the pot on a medium heat and cover, cook this for 1 hour at least. I find 1 hour 15 minutes is perfect, but the smell of it cooking makes you impatient, trust me!
  4. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and chop into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes, run them under cold water to rid of the surface starch. When the gammon has 20 minutes to go, heat a large pan of water and boil the potatoes until tender, not until they fall apart in the water.
  5. Drain the potatoes, adding the milk or cream and butter; mash quickly until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Easy on the salt, the gammon will be salty enough.
  6. Remove the gammon joint form the ginger ale, don’t tip the ale away! Remove the cloves and serve the gammon sliced with the carrot and onion and a generous dollop of mashed potato. Spoon on the ginger ale as gravy.


Gammon joints can be very salty which is why this recipe doesn’t call for any extra salt to be added. Ideally, soak the gammon in a large pot of cold water over night, drain before cooking.

I use Mozart potatoes from Waitrose (the red skinned ones) they make perfect mashed potatoes every time.

If the thought of cooking your gammon in ginger ale doesn’t make you run to the supermarket don’t panic! Gammon can be boiled in many things, dry cinder, apple or orange juice, fanta or the Nigella Lawson way of boiling it in Coca Cola. Yes Really!