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Mediterranean Fish Soup
Although this looks lengthy to make, it is in fact easy, once you have assembled the correct ingredients, and while it's cooking, your kitchen will be full of the most beautiful smells.
Restaurant chefs are in a position to save up the scraps and bones from many types of fish, and freeze them until needed. You will have to make friends with your local fishmonger, and I'm sure he'll be pleased with the interest and help you out.
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For 8 people:
3 fl oz/90ml Olive Oil
2 big or 4 medium Onions, peeled and chopped
4 ox/120gr each of Fennel (bulb not seed), Leek, Celery and Carrot, all chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped
½ pint/300ml Dry White Wine
1 Sherry glass of Pernod or Ricard, or 2 pieces of Star Anise
1 x 14 oz/400gr tin of chopped Italian Tomatoes
5 oz/150gr of Tomato Purée
1 good pinch of Saffron Strand, or a little packet of powder
1 big pieces (about ½ an orange worth) of Orange Peel, remove as much pith as possible
1 rounded teaspoon (5ml) Herbes de Provence, the best will contain lavender & green anise - tryy www.gourmetherbs.com (http://www.gourmetherbs.com)
2 Bay Leaves
Approximately 2 lbs/1 kilo of Mixed Fish, washed to remove any blood
An old Lobster Shell, kept in the deep-freeze from a previous meal (optional)
4 oz/120gr of shell-on North Atlantic Prawns
1 whole Crab, the stomach removed by your fishmonger, then broken into pieces
6 pints/3.5 litres Cold Water
A little (about ¼ teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper or Chili Powder
If possible (but a luxury) about 2 lbs/1 kilo mixed Fish heads and bones/frames, thoroughly washed
Salt and freshly-ground Black Pepper - to taste
To serve: You'll need Rouille (q,v), grated fresh Parmesan and some Croûtes (made with dried-out slices of French Bread
Equipment needed: A very large and deep flame-proof casserole; a Food Processor or better still, a liquidising 'Rod'
1. Gently heat the olive oil in a big pan, big and deep enough to hold all the ingredients; then add the mixed vegetables and garlic - 'sweat' these slowly until they start to soften.
2.Deglaze the pan with the wine and the Pernod/Ricard (if using) - otherwise add the star anise; allow the mixture to bubble for a few minutes.
3.Add the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the salt, pepper and cayenne.
4.Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, uncovered.
5.Remove from the heat and carefully take out any fish bones, plus crab and lobster shells. Any loose bits of crab meat can be returned to the pot, when the shells are cool enough to handle. Basically remove anything big enough to jam the blades of a food processor - but the prawns should stay in.
6.Liquidise the soup, either using a food processor, or better still, a liquidising 'rod'. The small pieces of fish and vegetables will act as a thickening agent
7.When your soup is fairly smooth, pass it through a course sieve or colander, working as many ingredients through as you can, using the bottom of a strong ladle, or the back of a wooden spoon. Basically the more goodies you force through the straining system, the thicker (and more delicious) your soup will be. You should be aiming for the consistency of tinned tomato soup.
8.Add salt, pepper and the cayenne pepper - to taste; remembering that the cayenne will increase in intensity if the soup stands - particularly if you're making the soup a day ahead of requirements.
Serve with Rouille (q.v), some grated fresh Parmesan and Croûtes. As we're sure you know, the idea is that you spread the rouille onto a croûte, float this on top of your bowl of soup, the sprinkle this with some cheese. Good French bread makes this a meal in itself.