If you ever find yourself setting foot in one of the market halls in Helsinki, like Hakaniemen kauppahalli or Vanha kauppahalli, the first thing you’ll notice is the delicious smell of cooked food that wraps you and invites you to find its source. The scent comes from Soppakeittiö, a soup bar stall that serves lunch. They have three soups to choose from, two of which change daily, but bouillabaisse, their star dish, is permanent. Ever since I first tasted this soup in 2012, I’ve wanted to prepare it myself, but its complex flavour makes it really hard to reverse engineer the recipe. Even though it’s of French origin and there are hundreds of versions online, none of them seemed to match the one prepared in Soppakeittiö. I thought I’d never be able to eat this soup unless I went to the market hall, which I don’t do to avoid consuming cheap vegetable oils and added sugars (yes, sugar is added to regular food in Finland).
After doing some research, I found out that the developer of this soup published a book called Sopat! that contains this recipe. As the title suggests, it is a collection of soup recipes. In his book, chef Marc Aulén tells that bouillabaisse was the first soup he created at Soppakeittiö, and even though he no longer works there, the soup has been their daily star recipe to date. Once I found out all the ingredients used in this soup, I realised I would’ve never been able to recreate this recipe by myself. The book is unfortunately only written in Finnish, so you might need either some knowledge in the language or a nice Finnish friend. From personal experience, I found learning Finnish way easier than making Finnish friends. Either way, I recommend you to have a look at his recipes. (Tip: you can find the book at HelMet libraries).
Nowadays, Aulén can be found working at Qulma, a breakfast and lunch restaurant he founded in 2010 with two other friends and, you guessed it, their specialization is soup.
Now, let’s get on with this soup’s recipe. Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of ingredients. This soup is actually really easy to make: you just have to dump all the ingredients into a pot and let them simmer for some time.
- 1,4 l fish stock
- 400 g white fish (see note #1)
- 400 g shellfish
- 3 dl good quality white wine (see note #2)
- 150 g chopped onion or leek
- 130 g julienned carrot
- 130 g julienned celery
- 100 g julienned fresh fennel
- 1 dl freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1,5 dl crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 70 g tomato paste
- 3 medjool dates (optional, see note #3)
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 tsp oregano
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 0,5 g saffron
- 2 tsp whole fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 1 star anise
- Garlic mayonnaise to serve
- Place all the ingredients minus the seafood in a large pot.
- Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 40 minutes.
- Add the seafood and cook for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste if needed.
- Serve with your home-made mayonnaise.
- 2 egg yolks at room temperature
- 0,5 tsp salt
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1,5 dl extra virgin olive oil or 150 g butter (see note #4)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Add the egg yolks, the salt, the lemon juice and the minced garlic to a mixing bowl.
- Whisk with an electric hand mixer until it becomes thick.
- Add the oil slowly as you continue whisking.
- Mix in the chopped parsley.
- The fish and shellfish you can use in this recipe vary depending on what’s available to you. In Finland, you might use 300g of salmon, 300g of zander, and 200g of peeled shrimps. If I were in Spain, I’d use 200g of monkfish, 200g of hake, 200g of peeled shrimps and 200g of mussels. As you can see, both options make for 800g of seafood, but I adjust the proportions of fish and shellfish to taste and availability.
- Choosing a good wine is essential. A basic rule of thumb is that if you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it. If you don’t know anything about wine, maybe simply don’t buy the cheapest bottle, the one that has a cap screw instead of a cork. And don’t even think about purchasing tetra pak wine.
- The original recipe uses 3 tablespoons of sugar. While I don’t think it’s necessary, you can use three dates instead. To do that, simply blend the dates with some of the stock, then strain the mixture to remove the hard pieces of peel - it’s not pleasant to feel them in your mouth while eating soup. It’d be much easier to use sweeteners such as honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup, but I think their distinct flavor wouldn’t work well with the rest of the soup.
- The oil used in the original recipe is rapeseed oil, so you can substitute it for extra virgin olive oil or, if you don’t like the taste of it in your mayonnaise, you can use butter instead. To do that, let the butter melt at room temperature. Then, put all the ingredients in a mixing jar and blend. Then, whisk the mixture until it has a thick consistency. This may take a while, so be patient.
Aulén, Marc (2014). Sopat!. Gummerus.