Pescatarian options

24 August 2018

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HERE are some soups, which may seem a trifle alarming in this heatwave, although, by the time you read this, we may all be back in winter woollies. If not, perhaps these will be something to look forward to when we are cold — and we will be, all too soon; so it is as well to remember that when sharing one’s bathwater with precious plants.

My expensive-looking butcher, fishmonger, and seaside restaurant are actually on a par, price-wise, with the local supermarket, but the quality is superb. Better still, they will ring me up when they have a pile of bones after filleting, and a huge turbot or cod carcass changes hands for a grateful £1. That makes a very nutritious and delicious Fish stock:

1 large fish carcass (salmon or cod)
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
1 large carrot
2 cloves garlic
sea salt and 6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
 

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan or stock pot, and cover with water. Bring the stock to the boil and simmer gently for an hour or more. Strain, and use for whatever recipe you wish.

When Jean-Paul, who was staying, smelt my fish-stock cooking, he insisted on recreating his favourite Belgian Waterzooi soup. He had kindly brought some French crème-frâiche anyway, and I had onions, celery, and carrots; so I was despatched to buy a large leek and a few haddock fillets, and sent to the garden for parsley. I used haddock, and the stock was made with the remains of a large cod, but Jean-Paul says that it is equally good with oily fish, such as salmon. His version for us went like this:

1 onion
1 very large leek
2 sticks of celery
2 medium carrots
2-3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter
450g (1 lb) fish fillets
150ml (5fl. oz) crème-frâiche
2 egg yolks
1l (2 pts) fish stock
bay leaf
fresh parsley
glass of white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 

Dice the vegetables neatly and sauté them in the butter for about ten minutes. Add the stock and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Chop the parsley, and cut the fish into small chunks.

Towards the end of the cooking time, add the wine and fish and allow it to poach very gently. Just before you are ready to serve, beat together the egg yolks and crème fraiche, and then add a little of the soup to relax it. Then pour the mixture into the soup, and stir gently until it is all piping hot (but not boiling, or it will curdle). Remove the bay leaf, and add the seasonings to taste.

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