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Zarzuela Fish Stew is the Catalan Version of Bouillabaisse

Similar to Marseille’s bouillabaisse, Zarzuela from Catalan is hard to pin into a category it’s either a hearty soup or a stew with a tasty broth. And with both soup/stews, there are endless different recipes. The following recipe for Zarzuela Fish Stew comes from Emma Kershaw’s Taste of le Sud cookbook.

Books A Taste of Le Sud

Both Zarzuela and bouillabaisse include local ingredients (tomatoes, fennel), Mediterranean rockfish and a fish stock created from the shells and heads. In the case of an authentic bouillabaisse from a chartered Marseille restaurant, the fish, as well as the serving method, are prescriptive.

Zarzula Catalan Fish Stew

Zarzuela Catalan Fish Stew

Emma Kershaw
There seem to be as many versions of Zarzuela out there as there are days in the year! I am adding my version to the collection, enjoy!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
55 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Catalan, Spanish
Servings 4 people


  • 2 Fillets of Firm White Fish choose from monkfish, sea bream, hake, blue ling
  • 2 medium Cuttlefish cleaned, the bodies cut into rings and the tentacles chopped
  • 1 large handful each of Mussels, Clams and Prawns
  • 1 small Fennel Bulb finely diced
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 large Garlic Cloves diced plus an extra for rubbing on the toast
  • 1 Red Pepper finely diced
  • 4 large Tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced (or 1 tin chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Purée
  • 175 ml Fish Stock *
  • large pinch of saffron
  • to taste Paprika
  • 1 large handful of Fresh Chopped Parsley plus extra for serving
  • 1 tbsp Pastis an aromatic aniseed spirit
  • 1 small glass of White Wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Olive Oil for frying and drizzling on the toasts
  • Bread to make garlic toasts


  • Fresh Cuttlefish: Remove the heads and clean out the body under cold water, chop the tentacles and add to a bowl of cold water with the bodies and let soak for as long as possible to remove any sand. Drain, rinse and drain again before using.
  • Rinse and soak the mussels and clams and soak in cold water until you are ready for them, then drain and rinse and drain again. Next, chop all your vegetables so that they are ready.
  • Start by adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat, then add the cuttlefish rings (keep the tentacles aside for now), cook for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep aside for later
  • Add more oil to the pan if needed and a small pinch of salt and the onions. Soften for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fennel, pepper, garlic, paprika and saffron. Cook for a further five minutes.
  • Pour the Pastis over and stir. After about five minutes, the alcohol will have burned off, and you are left with an aromatic aniseed aroma. Add the tomatoes and purée, stir well and cook for another five minutes.
  • Add the wine and stock. You may not need all of the stock at this point so hold some back to add later on, especially if you are making this in advance and then reheating. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the sauce thickened. Add the fish, parsley and black pepper.
  • Lower the heat, put the lid on and cook gently for five minutes. (If you are doing this in advance turn the heat off now and put it aside) Add the rest of the seafood, mussels, cuttlefish rings and tentacles, prawns and clams. Cook until the shells open.
  • Check the seasoning at this point, the seafood is naturally salty so you may not need to add any extra salt. If the sauce has thickened too much loosen it with some of the reserved fish stock.
  • Sprinkle with parsley and serve with garlic croutons. You can serve with a mix of garlic croutons, tapenade and radish leaf pesto.


*Fish stock – you can make your own using the prawn shells and any bones/heads from the fish, just throw it all into a pan with cold water, a glass of wine, parsley stalks, an onion, carrot and the parts of the fennel that you would normally throw away. Cook on medium heat while you prepare the rest of the Zarzuela.
Keyword Fish, Seafood Recipes, Stew
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Wine to Match:

This dish works equally well with a robust white or a full-flavoured rosé. For the white I recommend Domaine de la Rectorie’s L’Argile, an elegant Grenache Gris dominated wine, with notes of fennel and white fruits, mineral and sea salt. Alternatively Domaine Ollier Taillefer do a delicious rosé, Les Collines. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, lightly spicy and again the wafts of fennel work very well indeed here.

Additional Fish Recipes:

Cod Fish Steamed in Spinach Leaves and Ratatouille
This is a quick and easy way to enjoy cod, a light white fish that is made for pairing with colourful vegetables! Enjoy it with rice, pasta, or zucchini noodles for a lighter version. The white wine cream sauce is so full of flavour, you'll be sure to bookmark the page to make it again!
Check out this recipe
Cod Fish Steamed in Spinach Leaves, Basil Ratatouille, White Wine Cream Sauce
Fish and Fennel Chowder
Easy and satisfying - a perfect soup.
Check out this recipe
Fish Fennel Chowder Soup
Pan roasted fish with provençal savoury crumble
This easy recipe from the Jeanny at Mirabeau Wine is easy to make even if you are typically afraid to cook fish.
Check out this recipe
Pan roasted fish with provençal savoury crumble @MirabeauWine
Mediterranean Fish with a Vegetable Tian
A tian is the Provencal name for an clay casserole dish (oven friendly). It is also the name used to describe a layered baked dish, which can be savoury or sweet.
Check out this recipe
Mediterranean Fish Tian de legumes Vegetables @ProvenceCook

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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