Sepia a la bruta – cuttlefish stew

  • medium
  • 10
  • 4 hours 30 minutes
Not yet rated

Heady, rich and deeply delicious, this sepia a la bruta recipe from Angel Zapata Martin is a true labour of love. The cuttlefish is cooked in a rich prawn bisque with tomatoes, sherry and saffron before being mixed with a rich chocolate picada – this thickens the stew and provides even more richness to the dish. It’s best to make the stew the day before you intend to serve it, as this extra resting time allows the flavours to develop further. Angel completes the dish with a potent piparras pepper allioli and sweet grilled leeks.

First published in 2019




Prawn bisque

Cuttlefish stew



Piparras allioli


  • Blender
  • Barbecue or chargrill pan


To begin, make the prawn bisque as you will need this to form the base of your stew. Heat the olive oil over a high heat in a medium-large pan and add the prawns. Once the prawns are nicely roasted, mash with a rolling pin to extract their juices
  • 100ml of olive oil
  • 2kg prawns, fresh and whole
Next, add the vegetables to the pan and sweat on a medium-high heat. It’s important to cook the vegetables until all of their moisture has evaporated and they start to brown
Add the paprika (being careful not to let it burn) and pour in the brandy, allowing the alcohol to evaporate fully. Add the herbs, tomato paste and peppercorns and cover with 5l of water. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes – the liquid should reduce until there's about 4l left in the pan. Remove from the heat and leave to sit in the pan with a lid on for an hour until cooled (this is an important stage as it will help to develop the flavour). Strain the bisque and set aside – you'll need 1l to make the stew, then an extra ladleful of bisque when ready to serve. You can freeze the rest of the bisque and use in other dishes
To make the cuttlefish stew, clean the cuttlefish very carefully, ensuring you remove the inner quill and the insides only - the skin should be left on. Remove the wings, slice into pieces and set aside on a plate. Shred the tentacles and place them on the plate with the chopped wings. Cut the body into large pieces and set aside separately
  • 3.5kg cuttlefish, with skin
Add a dash of oil to a hot pan and add the wings and tentacles, cooking until nicely golden all over. Add the shallots to the pan, place a lid on top and turn down the heat. Cook until the shallots are tender, then add the garlic, bay leaf and chopped dried chilli. Continue to cook over a low heat until the shallots are lightly caramelised
Add the tomatoes and cuttlefish body pieces and cook together over a low heat for 30–40 minutes. When the juices from the tomatoes have evaporated from the pan and the mixture is dry and sticky, add the toasted saffron and sherry. Allow the alcohol to evaporate, then add 1l of the prawn bisque and cook over a low heat until the cuttlefish is very tender, for about 60–90 minutes. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before chilling in the fridge overnight – you can serve the dish immediately but the flavour of the stew and texture of the cuttlefish will improve if chilled then reheated
To make the picada, blitz everything together in a blender and set aside
Preheat a barbecue or chargrill pan until smoking hot. Burn the leeks until the skin is black, as quickly as possible. Remove from the grill, wrap in tin foil and allow to cool. Once cool, peel away the blackened layers and cut into 8cm pieces
To make the piparras allioli, preheat the oven to 165°C/gas mark 4
Coat the garlic bulb in oil and salt, wrap in tin foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour. Once the garlic cloves are soft, squeeze out of the skins straight into a blender. Add the raw garlic cloves, piparras and egg yolks, blend to a paste for a minute or 2, then slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Set aside
To serve, reheat the leeks in the oven, rubbed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When they are ready, drizzle with some Arbequina olive oil. Reheat the cuttlefish stew with a ladle of the prawn bisque and the picada
  • pepper
  • salt
  • olive oil, preferably Arbequina olive oil
When the stew becomes thick, serve with the leeks and paparras allioli. Grate over a little dark chocolate, top with chives and serve

As executive chef of London’s lauded Barrafina restaurants, Angel Zapata Martin became a figurehead for authentic Spanish tapas in the UK.

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