Sam’s Turkish fish stew

Sam Semple is one of my oldest and dearest friends. I first met him in 1999 when we were both editors on Douglas Adams’ community website h2g2, the idea of which was to create a user generated version of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.


The site went through some turbulent times which Sam and I weathered to survive a particular bleak winter (3 months over Christmas with no pay) to come out the other side richer and employed by the BBC. We’ve worked together off and on since then and when our professional ways parted, we’ve remained good friends.

Sam is a singer-songwriter and his debut album called Mystery Songs was inspired by the coming birth of his own son. Do download his album and the other songs he has out there, they’re beautifully written and stunningly voiced. It was to Sam who I turned when, in October 2013, my mum, my Duchess died. Sam stepped up and sang one of her favourite songs at the funeral (Summertime).

Sam and I also bond over food. There was one occasion where I had to cook fish, I’ve never been confident with fish, for such a beautiful meat, so much can go wrong with it. Sam provided this recipe below (you’ll also find it on h2g2), which I’ve been using for the past 12 years or so. It’s quick, easy, delicious, serves four and only uses one pan.

For this, and so much more, I thank you Sam.

Music to listen to while preparing this dish: ‘Mona Lisa’ by Sam Semple

Sam’s Turkish fish stew


  • Any firm white fish (cod or haddock etc), two or three good-sized fillets (skinless)
  • Lots of fresh coriander (not the sample packs from supermarkets, the huge bunches from the markets) roughly chopped, stalks and all
  • 2 or 3 hot red chillies, finely chopped
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced into small cubes
  • 2 red peppers, chopped into large strips roughly two inches long, half an inch thick
  • 1/2 pint of full fat milk (don’t be tempted with skimmed/coconut/almond etc it just isn’t worth the effort)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried oregano/pepper/thyme (pick one or mix)
  • Crusty bread and butter


  1. Cover a large, heavy-bottomed pan with the olive oil. Add the onion and sweat it down for five minutes.
  2. Add the chilli and garlic and red pepper strips. Season and sweat for a further 2-3 minutes
  3.  Add your roughly-chopped fresh coriander.
  4. Stir-fry all of this on a high heat for a couple of minutes till all the ingredients are mixed together and are covered in an oily film. You should look at the pan and think ‘That’s a lot of coriander’.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and carefully place the fish fillets on top. Sprinkle each piece with the oregano/pepper or thyme. Cover and keep on the low heat for 15 minutes. Keep checking as cooking times depend upon the thickness of the fillets.
  6. After 15 mins or so, the fish should be cooked. This bit is important, carefully add the milk, put the lid back on and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes on the same low heat setting. Don’t turn the heat up, this will cause the milk to split
  7. After the 5 minutes put the pan in the centre of the table and serve in to bowls with the bread and butter.

This really is a surprise for most people and a crowd-pleaser for everyone

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