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.

1 comment:

Ummiega said...

Nice post, thanks.