So by now it is no secret that I am lucky enough to be featured as a contestant on the 2015 series of The Great Pottery Throwdown! In reflection of episode 1, I am going to share a fool proof recipe for a really impressive fish soup. I can't really call this a 'soupe de poisson' as we aren't serving it with rouille and crouton but in fairness with a bit of tweaking you could easily transform it so. I have served this as a starter (just as a soup with maybe one small fillet of fish) or as a main dish (bulked up with a few extra fillets of fish and plenty of crusty bread).
I am not going to lie - you have to be quite comfortable cooking with fish in order to gain the flavours for the base. If the very thought of fish heads and bones are enough to make you run for the hills, it could be time to jump off the boat!
Serves 4. You need:
- FISH - I like to use 2-3 sea bream or sea bass and maybe a couple of red mullet. Ask the fishmonger to scale and fillet them but ask to keep the bones and heads. A few large raw prawns, heads on but shell and tail removed.
- VEG - roughly chop 1 medium onion, 2 carrots, 1 fennel bulb, 3 garlic cloves, 2 large vine tomatoes
- HERBS - bouquet garni: 1 bay leaf, handful of parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 3-4 basil leaves
- EXTRAS - 2 glasses of white wine (1 for the soup, 1 for you!) , tomato puree, olive oil, add a tablespoon of hot water to 1 pack saffron strands, water, olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne or paprika.
- Chop veg roughly. Add a really good glug (about a tablespoon) of olive oil to a heavy based pan and fry off the veg gently to soften without colouring. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the saffron strands and their liquor.
- Once the veg has softened slightly, add the fish bones and heads and a generous tablespoon of tomato puree. Give it a stir and allow to sweat for a couple of minutes. Add a generous glass of white wine. Turn the heat up just slightly to allow the harsh alcohol aromas to burn off then add the bouquet garni, about a litre of hot water and a dessertspoon full of Pernod.
- Bring the soup to the boil for about 30 minutes and skim any frothy foam or excess oil that may appear on the surface.
- Remove the bouquet garni and the fish heads. Transfer the soup (including the fish bones) to a blender and pulverise until smooth. Pass the resulting soup through a fine sieve into a clean pan and discard the pulp left behind in the sieve along with the fish heads and herbs.
- Bring the soup to a light boil, taste to check seasoning and adjust. Add a small pinch of Cayenne (careful - it is always hotter than I think!! Once you've added it, you can't go back so add in increments and keep tasting!!)
- In a separate pan, heat olive oil over a medium heat and fry off the fillets of fish skin side down initially for 2 minutes then turn and fry the fleshy side for 1 minute then remove onto kitchen paper (they will keep cooking when you add them to the soup so definitely don't worry, don't overcook them!!)
- Add the prawns to the soup to cook for 2-3 minutes until pink.
- Serve the soup in warmed bowls, dividing the prawns between portions. Add a couple of fillets of fish to each bowl and garnish with chopped parsley.
(All images are my own)