I do not even remember the last time I made a fish stock. It is not a process I enjoy – too much simmering, puréeing and sieving for my liking. When I want to make a fish soup and I need a stronger cooking medium, rather than plain water, I am more than happy to resort to a convenience product, a jar of “soupe de poisson” from the French Perard brand. The large 780 g jar is enough to make a soup for 4 to 5 persons and it works fine, with a little doctoring. In itself, I find the Perard soup too rich but diluted with water, as a base upon which to layer other flavours, it works fine. It is worth experimenting. I noticed the soup gets better as it sits, so, in an ideal world, make the base the day before you intend to use it.
This example is a thick soup rich with beans, potatoes and roasted pepper. The quantities are merely a suggestion, because this is the kind of soup where you can really improvise.
Before you ask: there is not much particularly Italian about this soup, I am just writing it down not to forget it.
A relatively quick fish soup, with potatoes and giant white beans (using Perard soupe de poisson)
3 leeks, white part only, sliced
1 fresh bay leaf, 1 strip of orange zest
a couple of cloves of garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon each of toasted, ground coriander and fennel seeds
a pinch of smoked paprika
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
125 ml white vermouth or white wine
one 780 g jar soupe de poisson Perard, well shaken
500 ml water
about 5 tablespoon cooked tomato sauce or passata
600 g cooked giant white beans (or chickpeas) (the content of one jar of El Navarrico beans would be fine too)
500 ml water
1 sachet Italian saffron (0.16 gr)
2 roasted peppers, chopped up
500 g cod cheeks, salted well in advance
Fry the leeks, salted, with the bay leaf and the orange strip. When they are well reduced, add the garlic, let it soften and add the spices. Stir often and when you are hit with their aroma, add the potatoes and stir well.
Salt lightly and cook at a lively heat for a couple of minutes.
Add the vermouth and let it bubble away until it has almost evaporated.
Add the soupe de poisson, the water, the tomato sauce and the beans.
Bring to a simmer and add the saffron and the peppers
Cook until the potatoes are tender.
Let it rest 30 minutes (unless you have time and the inclination to let it rest and use it the following day)
Check for salt (bear in mind the fish is salted) and above all for acidity: sometimes a few drops of vinegar help to liven up the soup: be cautious and add half a teaspoon at a time.
Bring to a simmer and add the fish. Push the chunks of fish in the soup, cook for five minutes and then switch off, letting the fish finish cooking in the residual heat, about ten minutes
Check, add chopped parsley and serve.
On fish: always salt fish well in advance, possibly as soon as you go home from the fishmonger. Over a few hours the salt will seep into the flesh and make it firmer and more succulent.
I have made similar soups also with mussels. I steam open the mussels, remove the meat from the shells and filter the broth. I add the mussel liquid when I add the soupe de poisson and I add the mussels at the very end.