aka “Fosforera” and “Tostones”
And back to my lovely Venezuela.
Fosforera, as it’s called in Venezuela is a traditional Seafood Stew which name translates as a box of matches, usually served in the Eastern Coast Region of Venezuela where fresh fish and seafood are the jewels that give this dish all its glory. With heavy Spanish influences and a bisque resemblance in preparation, this soup used to feature Venezuela’s most popular coastal produce and is sure to be one of the most emblematic dishes in the country.
Locals claim the flavourful soup has aphrodisiac properties due to the use of a mix of seafood and a mix of seafood and fish stocks, which I am honestly not sure about. What I am sure about is that this one is jam-packed with flavour and will have you wanting for more.
This Seafood Stew is something my family and I used to have during the school holidays when we visited Margarita Island, you could find Fosforera in almost every beach hut around the island, and you could not leave without having at least tried the soup.
Fosforera can be enjoyed on its own or with some sides like Tostones (fried green plantains chips) or Casabe (Grated cassava flatbread). Make sure you have some water as well as the stock is so rich it will get you sweating.
If you are looking to try a hearty, finger-licking stew this is the dish for you. Like many traditional recipes, there are different versions of the soup, all delicious, some more laborious than others but all worth celebrating. This is my version of it based on Sumito Estevez (acclaimed Venezuelan Chef) version, with a few twists.
Notes to make Venezuelan Seafood Stew
- Let’s talk stocks: this soup relies in a mixture of three different stocks, which I recommend making from scratch, at the most you could substitute the fish stock for store bought one if you wish or water but the Octopus stock, and prawn stock are key to build the flavour profile of this soup.
- Seafood: Traditionally this soup is packed with seafood from pipies, calamari, prawns, mussels, and anything you could find in the shores, the thing is that they throw everything together besides of the different cooking times. I like to keep it simple and cook each produce at the right doneness, therefore I settle for 4 elements which in all honestly are more than enough to represent the essence of this soup. Note I used young Octopus which a lot more tender and smaller than the big 2 KG Octopus you find in the market, if using the latter increase cooking time until occi gets tender up 2 hrs.
- Tostones: this is my preferred side and the perfect complement to this soup, that’s the way they serve it in the beach as well. Tostones when done well are the crispier tastier chips and do a great job softening the flavours of the soup. However you can choose to use Cassava chips and make them with the same techique I did with the tostones, or any flat bread will do good to complement the dish. A fresh salad also pairs well with the rich Fosforera, a coleslaw is commonly served with this dish and Tostones.
- Green Plantains: To make tostones you’ll need to get your hands on some green plantains which sometimes can be tricky here in Australia and other countries where plantains are not grown, in Australia you can find them in the markets, certain fruit and veggies sell them, and asian and african grocers as well, they can be called Cooking Bananas (although not exactly the same as plantains they work well). To get the best ones look for plantains with completely green skin on the outside, if you let them sit on the counter for a week they rippen, turn yellow and sweeten, which then can be used for different recipes. You can choose to make Tostones with slighlty ripe Plantains as well they will brown a lot faster due to the sugar content and will have a slight sweetness that is pleasant and often enjoy as an afternoon snack in Latin America.
- Anato seeds are a staple in latin american cooking, you can find them in asian grocers, in this dish they are there to give colour more than flavour. You can leave it out if you wish it won’t compromise the overall dish.
Venezuelan Seafood StewCourse: LunchCuisine: Venezuelan, Latin AmericaDifficulty: Medium
- Seafood Stew
1 young Octopus (cleaned use tentacles only)
6 king prawns (adjust if using a smaller prawn)
1/2 kg Mussels (about 8)
2 firm flesh fish fillets (belly preferable, I used red snapper)
1 1/2 brown onions
4 garlic cloves
1 red capsicum
1 ripe tomato
1/4 c passata or blended cannen tomatoes ( can use fresh tomato puree)
1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or 1/2 a fresh chilli desseded and minced)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp anato seeds
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 c fish stock (made by simmering fish heads and aromats for at least 30min) replace with water alternatevely
salt and pepper
- Plantain chips
2 green plantains
vegetable oil (high smoke point one recommended like canola or grapeseed)
sea salt flakes
- Seafood Stew
- Add Octopus tentacles to a saucepan and cover with water until just covered , add a bay leaf and cook until tender, 30-40 min, maybe more depending on Octopus size. Reserve broth resulting.
- Deshell and clean prawns, reserve prawn meat in the fridge, use heads and shells to make stock.
- Add couple of tbsp of oil in a saucepan, sautee until they change in colour and start getting crispy abour 3-4 min, add diced tomato, 1/2 an onion diced, 1/2 a capsicum diced, and 2 garlic cloves roughly chopped.
- Continue cooking until caramelised, add a sprinkle of salt, a tbsp of oregano, a bay leaf. Deglaze the saucepan with red wine vinegar and stir to loosen the caramelised fond. Let cook for 5 min to reduce the vinegar, add 2 c of water, and let simmer to reduce by half.
- Transfer the prawn stock to a blender with shells and everything, and blen roguhly , return to the pan cook for futher 5 min to release more flavour, strain through a fine mesh without pushing to avoid having small shells going through and reserve.
- In a small saucepan add 1 tbsp of anato seeds and abour 4 tbsp of oil to barely cover the seeds, heat to medium heat for 3-5 min to make anato oil, stir and supervise frequently to avoid burning as it turns really bitter.
- Strain the oil in a large pot and discard the seeds*.
- Make a sofritto mix by blending 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, tomato puree or passata, tomato paste, 1/2 a capsicum into a rough paste.
- Heat pot with the anato oil to medium heat and cook sofritto paste in it until fragant 7-8 min add a bit of water if it starts drying out, add salt, pepper, and chilli flakes, and red white vinegar, cook for another 10 min until the raw taste of the veggies disappear.
- Add cleaned mussels to the sofritto mix and cook for about 5 min covered to steam in this mix, take out mussels that start to open and reserve continue cooking the other ones for further 2 min and check, reserve cooked mussels that opened and discard all the closed ones. You can take some mussles out of the shell and lave others in the shell for garnish.
- In the same pot where you cooked the mussels add 250ml of Octopus stock, 250ml of Prawn stock, 500ml of fish stock or water, and bring to boil, simmer for 15-20 min to reduce to 3/4 and adjust seasoning.
- Poach raw prawns in the stock for 2-3 min and take out and reserve, season lightly.
- Poach fish fillets for 6-7 min until it starts to flake, take out and reserve and season lightly.
- Heat Octopus and mussels by dipping them in the boiling stock for 20 sec, remove and start serving.
- In a bowl serve pieces of Octopus, 3 prawns, 3 mussels, 1 fish fillet, and spoon 2 ladles of the seafood stock on top, serve with lime wedges and fresh coriander.
- Peel green plantains and cut in 5 cm pieces.
- Heat enough oil to deep fry at a 150C, and cook in batches until they start to brown slightly.
- Take out and let cool slighlty over some paper towels, and then using a tortilla press, flat plate or 2 cutting boards smash/flatten the cooked plantain until it is about 3-4 mm thin.
- Heat oil to 180C and fry smashed plantain in batches until crispy and deep golden brown.
- Drain in paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
- If you prefer your seafood stew a bit more creamy you could add 200-300g of cooked punpkin mashed to the stocks before simmering, this will help thickening the soup.