Fish soup

Empirical pedantry is probably my favourite form of linguistic pedantry. When someone asks me “what do you know about X?”, I like to respond with something like: “Do we really know anything? Have you read Hume or Bertrand Russell? Clearly not. But what I can say is that I have been told X is quite [insert adjective]”. This is potentially why every conversation I have takes thrice the amount of time it should but I think people prefer accuracy to brevity. My second favourite form of pedantry is over careless grammatical mistakes and bronze goes to highlighting the overuse of clichés, see what I did there? What fun I get up to. Now “what does this have to do with fish soup”, you say? Well, take for example the carrot used in this recipe.  How do we know the carrot is a carrot to me and carrot to you? If I see a carrot but you see what I would see as a banana as a carrot, then this recipe would taste really quite funky. Now imagine I try to describe a carrot. I would say something like “well they’re longer than they are wide, kind of cylindrical, about 2/3rds the length of my foot and they’re orange”. But what if what I see as orange you see as what I see as yellow but you call it orange? Then we’re back to eating bananas. I suppose I will hold a carrot and say “doesn’t this taste wonderful with hummus” and we would agree and that would make me think everyone is eating carrots, but what if taste is entirely subjective and some people enjoy the taste of bananas and hummus, or to go one step further, what if the hummus was Nutella?!

Ok enough. Back to “carrots”. Aren’t they delicious?! So healthy when raw, if you eat enough of them there’s absolutely no reason to go for a fake tan and they make a great base for sauces and soups particularly when juxtaposed to the aniseed celery and fennel. With this soup you can whack in whatever fish you fancy. This is a Christmas time favourite in my family and my mom always uses monkfish which adds a great, meaty texture. I would say whatever fish you use, you must include clams. They completely change the flavour of the soup and are obviously delicious in their own right. Another useful tip, you can turn the leftovers into a really delicious pasta sauce. I made this at the weekend and hardly had enough left over for one portion of soup and so I took out the fish, whizzed up the sauce in a blender with a few more chopped tomatoes, a pinch of chilli flakes, some wine and parsley. I then put the new sauce on the hob, simmered for about 15 minutes, cooked some pasta, popped the fish in the sauce for a couple of minutes to reheat, tossed it all together and out came a delicious spaghetti marinara for two.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 carrot
1 celery stick
1/2 fennel bulb
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
900g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 bottle of white wine
1 lemon
1 bunch of parsley
1 monkfish fillet and bone
20 clams
6 king prawns
8 scallops
1 squid (cleaned and cut into rings 0.5 cm thick)

and a loaf of warmed rye bread to serve.


  • Finely chop the carrot, celery, fennel, onion, garlic and chilli.
  • Place a heavy bottomed pan on the hob over a medium heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  • When hot add the carrots, celery and onion. Fry until softened (around 10-15 minutes).
  • Then add the garlic and chilli. Fry for another 3 minutes, be careful not to burn the garlic it should just be thinking about getting golden but not there yet.
  • Then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and half a bunch of finely chopped parsley. Add a big pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.
  • Simmer for around 10 minutes or until the alcohol has burnt off.
  • Cut your monkfish fillets into large chunks (3.5cm x 3.5 cm) and then add to the soup. 1 minute later add the king prawns, 1 minute after that add the scallops, then add the clams and the squid. Simmer for five minutes.
  • Add the extra virgin olive, the other half of the chopped parsley bunch and the juice of 1/3rd of a lemon.
  • Check the seasoning, then serve with a loaf of warmed, crusty bread.

Disclaimer: the timings for the fish will depend on the size and also the type of fish you use. These are rough guides but the best way to make sure everything is perfectly cooked is to prod and check as you go.



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