Basque Fish Soup


2018-01-05

This delicious but not so good-looking soup stole my heart in January of 2016, when my boyfriend and I visited San Sebastián for the first time. After two years of painful longing for another bowl of this soup, we finally made our way back to the greenest and mistiest region of Spain, the Basque Country. This time, I was determined not to get on the train back to Barcelona without having the recipe in my pocket. If you’d like to know how I managed to do it, I wrote an entire blog post where I explain it. You can click here to read it.

Important: This is a paleo version of the original recipe. If you eat bread, then I suggest you use bread instead of potato. In the Basque Country, a special kind of toasted bread, sopako, is used to thicken soups. The bread is added right before blending the soup.

Make sure to read the entire recipe beforehand. There are many different concurrent tasks. They all come together at the end, I promise.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small monkfish
  • 15 clams
  • 15 prawns
  • Hake head and bones
  • 2 big yellow onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 potato
  • 200ml grated tomato sauce
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water (no exact measure, just enough to cover the ingredients)
  • Net bag for legumes

Preparation:

  1. Chop the onions and carrots into relatively small cubes. Size doesn’t matter since they’ll end up being blended anyway. Just pick a reasonable size and stick to it.
  2. Add ghee (or your cooking fat of choice) to a big pot and cook the chopped onions and carrots at medium-low heat until they are soft.
  3. Add two garlic cloves and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Take the head off the prawns, peel them, and set them apart (you’ll add the prawn meet to the soup right at the end). Put the monkfish, hake head, hake bones, prawn heads and prawn shells into the net bag.
  5. Once fifteen minutes have passed, pour in the glass of white wine and stir until the liquid evaporates.
  6. Add the tomato sauce.
  7. Add the net bag and the potato, chopped. The net bag should occupy as little vertical space as possible. Otherwise you’ll end up adding too much water later (see step number 9).
  8. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.
  9. Then, pour in the water until everything is fully covered. Bring the soup to a simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes.
  10. When the time’s up, take the net bag out of the pot. At this point it will become clear why it’s important to use a net bag. Imagine seperating all the individual fish bones and prown heads from all the vegetables that have to be blended.
  11. Purée the soup using an immersion blender.
  12. Let’s now take care of the contents in the net bag. Crumble the meat of the monkfish and hake. Discard all the bones and other unedible parts.
  13. Steam the clams in a pan. To do so, just place them in a pan, heat it up, and wait until they open with their own steam. Discard those that do not open.
  14. Now it’s time to finish up the soup. Add the crumbled fish, prawns and clams (with the juice they released when they were being steamed) into the soup. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  15. The soup is now ready to be served, eaten, and, most importantly, enjoyed!

Fun fact

I highly recommend using as little creativity with the recipe as possible. When I attempted to do the recipe for the first time, I thought I’d add my own touch to it by making some Mediterranean fish stock to use instead of water. I bought so much fish (both for the stock and for the soup itself) that the fishmonger jokingly asked me if she could come eat some of whatever I was planning to do.
A month later, I decided it was time to try again. I told my boyfriend I was too embarrassed to go to the same fish stall, but he made a very valid point by saying that a month had passed and there was no way they could remember us. So, we went to the same fish stall. Everything seemed fine. I ordered some fish, as one does. Until one of the fishmongers asked me how the soup had turned out. I told her we were actually shopping to do it again because it had not turned out so well the first time around. She responded “Third time’s a charm”. There was no third time. Monkfish is terribly expensive and our time in Catalonia was coming to its end. Maybe next year.