Saturday, June 9, 2012

French Fish Soup

Some years ago, I went with my family to Chamonix in France.  It was during the summer and we had a beautiful view of a lake and Mont Blanc from our apartment.  Each morning, we enjoyed warm croissants, both plain and chocolate, for breakfast.  We ate dinner out a few times at a nice restaurant we had found in the centre of Chamonix.  Their raclette was amazing, but I only had a taste of it because I was trying to cut back on bread at the time.  I ordered instead their fish soup and was really surprised at how good it was.  Recently, I found a fish soup recipe online and decided to try it with a few modifications.  I would say it is as good as what I had in Chamonix - rich and hearty.  Today I made it for the second time with a few further modifications and it is even better than my first attempt. 


450 grams fresh pangasius filet (frozen would probably work, too)
200 milliliters virgin olive oil
1/3 cup celery, minced
1/3 cup onion, minced
1/3 cup leek, minced
1/3 cup fennel, minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 orange, juice of
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon red chili pepper
1 bay leaf
a few springs of thyme, chopped
small bunch of parsley, chopped
small bunch of celery leaves, chopped
small amount of safron (crush it, if it is in threads rather than powdered)
1 pinch cayenne
120 grams cooked prawns, unpeeled
1 litre water or fish stock
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste (optional)


1) Heat the oil in a large pan, add the minced leeks, fennel, celery, and onions, and crush the garlic on top of these vegetables. Saute gently until soft (4-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

This is what the leeks, fennel, celery and onions should look like when chopped:

2)  Add the tomatoes, fish, and prawns, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fish looks white (3-4 minutes).

3)  Add the water or stock, red chili pepper, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, celery leaves, saffron, cayenne pepper, and orange juice, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for about 60 minutes.

I used water and the juice of a blood orange.  The bowl contains the chopped celery leaves, parsley and thyme ready to go into the soup.  You can see the powdered spices and the bay leaf in the soup pot to the left of the chopped herbs before the soup was stirred.  The next photo is what it looks like before covering it, turning the heat down and simmering for one hour.

4)  Remove the bay leaf.  Remove the prawns from the mixture to a small bowl and let them cool a little.  When cool enough to handle, peel them and discard the shells.  Return the peeled prawns to the soup.

I could not find any organic unshelled prawns.  The best I could find were these that had just their tails.  The shells are supposed to add a lot of flavor to the soup, so unshelled prawns are preferable.  The shells must be removed before blending.


5)  Purée the soup in a blender.  You will probably have to do this in at least two batches unless you have a very large blender, so you need to have a container ready to hold at least the first half of the puréed mixture.

The first photo shows the first one-half of the soup in the blender.  The second photo shows the first one-half of the soup blended and put into a container and the second one-half of the soup in the blender, ready to be blended.

6)  Return all of the puréed soup to the heat and heat it until hot enough to serve.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (I didn't use any black pepper - it seems fine with just the red chili pepper and cayenne).

7)  Serve with a tablespoon of creme fraiche in each soup bowl, or with a generous amount of grated Gruyère cheese.

8)  Cool and store in the fridge up to 3-4 days.

The soup looks more beautiful before it's puréed, but it is meant to be puréed.  In the recipe that I found online, the soup should also be strained after puréeing it, but I did not do that.  I like having some texture in it and straining it would take out a lot of the nourishment, to my way of thinking.

Friday, June 8, 2012

old friends found...

Recently, I reconnected with some old friends - people I knew from the mid-70's with whom I lived in a work-study programme.  We all got room and board and could attend free lectures for working at a hotel that housed people attending conferences across the street at a special institute.  We worked, meditated, and played together, some of us fell in and out of love with one another, some of us married.  We were young and idealistic, and reconnecting with those people and remembering our time together has reawakened in me a longing I'm having a hard time defining. 

Anyway, one of my newly-found fellow work-study mates recently posted in Facebook a song I had never heard before.  It has been running through my head for the last week and has become #68 in my list.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  Pat Metheny - First Circle - Live in Japan.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

our divided house...

I think we need to try to move beyond the ideologies of our respective political parties and unite against the corporations that are buying our government. Our political affiliations and loyaties divide us and weaken us against the forces of corporate rule. We've got Monsanto engineering corn that ends up as popcorn in all the movie theaters, not to mention being fed to all the animals in our food chain, so we're all going to get sick from that so that we go to doctors who prescribe medications being created by big pharma and insurance companies whose standard operating procedure is to reject every claim the first time around hoping that the claimants will be too tired or too sick to try again. We've got the big banks who got bailed out by taxpayer dollars with no payback plan, who still gave big bonuses to their CEOs while foreclosing on mortgaged homes instead of having compassion on struggling homeowners. There are also the extremely wealthy who have gotten tax breaks that they do not need and who have so many loopholes anyway that some pay less than the average middle-class working person. Let us not forget the media which is actually owned by corporations, so what we hear in the mainstream media is what they want us to hear and not necessarily what is true or complete. There is also the military-industrial complex that benefits from our continued presence in Afghanistan and from war in general. The government agencies that should be protecting us (e.g., the EPA, the FDA) have persons in decision-making positions who are former employees of the corporations, so that they are working on behalf of the corporations rather than on behalf of the people. Our government has become a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. There are so many things wrong and I don't know how to fix it, but I know that our political alliances divide us.  Unless we can overcome our differences, we will never be able to overcome corporate rule.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


There is this young man at work who has always been very friendly in the hallways. One day we happened to be in the elevator alone together, so I took the opportunity to finally ask him where he was from. He told me that he was from Iraq, and without even thinking about it, I said, "I am so sorry about what happened in your country", and then I burst into tears, and then I had to get out of the elevator because it was my floor. He kindly emailed me later in the day to say that he does not blame Americans and that I should not feel bad, and I thanked him for his kindness, and said that I felt that Americans should bear some collective shame for what has happened in Iraq, and that at least I, as an individual, could express my sorrow and regret when I have an opportunity. He didn't email back to me, but the friendliness in the hallways has continued, although perhaps tinged now with some awkwardness. The other other day, I read a recent interview with Dennis Kucinich that I felt compelled to send to this poor chap from the elevator. I had no reservations about sending it to him at the time, it seemed like what I absolutely had to do, but the result has been an intensification of the awkwardness on my side: I had forgotten that I had sent it to him, and then, there he was in the elevator when I left from work that same day, apologizing for not having read it yet, and I felt terrible! I really don't know what possessed me. I have always tried to follow my heart in my life, but sometimes it leads me in strange ways.