Fish & shellfish saffron & coconut stew with spice-roasted pumpkin

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Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey


By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

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This dish takes a bit of prep, but it’s absolutely delicious and full of amazing textures, flavours and colours. You’ll need to get your hands stuck into it when you eat it, all those shells and things, but it’s worth it. Although I give a recipe for braised octopus, which you could use here, I also wanted to give you an alternative way of cooking it. I also used baby octopus, although you could use squid, and it’s important that you cook the clams like this as they’re notoriously gritty and it’s a real shame to go to the effort to cook this and have it full of grit. The saffron I used for this was actually grown in Otago, New Zealand, and its flavour is incredibly intense with the aroma and colour very earthy. I love to pair pumpkin (or butternut squash) or sweet potatoes with saffron, so it seemed a good idea to add large chunks of roasted pumpkin to the dish - as it sits in the broth it slowly absorbs some of the flavour - which gives it a lovely taste.


  • 1 white onion, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • vegetable oil for sautéing
  • 300 g large octopus legs, cut into 5-10-cm lengths
  • ½ lemon, sliced (keep the skin intact)
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 600-800 g pumpkin or butternut squash, seeds removed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 whole allspice
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 250 g cleaned clams (soak in cold, gently running water for 20 minutes to help remove grit)
  • 3 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 green chillies, split lengthways and cut into 4
  • 12 baby octopus, gutted
  • 2 pinches saffron - crumbled into 100 ml warm water and left to soak for 10 minutes
  • 300 ml coconut milk (although you could also use cream)
  • 6 large scallops, cut in half crossways (or 12 smaller scallops)
  • 200 g monkfish fillet, sliced into 6 (or try using cod, hake, john dory or swordfish)


First prepare the octopus legs. In a large pan with a tight-fitting lid, sauté the onion and garlic to colour in a little vegetable oil. Add the octopus and give it a stir, then add the lemon, 1 litre of water, 2 teaspoons flaky salt and the peppercorns. Sit a cartouche on top of the liquid and bring to the boil. Turn to a simmer, put the lid on, and cook for 80 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave it to cool in the liquid. Once it’s cool, remove the octopus from the liquid, strain the liquid, pour it back over the octopus and place in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a roasting dish with baking parchment. Cut the pumpkin into 12 even-sized chunks - there’s no need to peel it unless you want to. Pound the cumin, allspice, sesame seeds and chilli flakes with 1 teaspoon flaky salt and sprinkle this over the pumpkin, drizzle on the olive oil and 50 ml water. Roast until you can insert a thin sharp knife through the flesh of the pumpkin.

Heat up a wide, deep pot and when it begins to smoke tip in the clams, all at once, and put a lid on. Cook for 4 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time. Turn the heat off and discard any clams that haven’t opened. Tip the clams into a colander and leave to drain, then strain the pan juices through a fine sieve and reserve for later use - it makes a great addition to a fish and shellfish soup and is lovely mixed into a tomato-based sauce for pasta, or mixed into a seafood risotto.

Rinse the pot out then sauté the shallots, ginger and chillies in 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil until beginning to caramelise. Add the baby octopus and give it a good stir, then add the saffron and its soaking liquid and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Put a lid on and cook over a high heat for two minutes. Add 200 ml of the octopus cooking liquid and bring back to the boil, then add the clams, octopus, scallops and monkfish and give it a very gentle stir. Simmer for no more than 2 minutes with the lid on then turn the heat off, taste for seasoning, and leave for a few minutes.

To Serve

Place two chunks of hot pumpkin into preheated bowls then ladle over the fish and shellfish and plenty of the broth.