The beautiful sight, smell and taste of this soup reminds me of the Aegean Sea, where Greek fishermen would make this soup out at sea with whatever fish they caught on the day. It is said that the history of this soup dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks, even preceding the French bouillabaisse!
The key to this dish is fresh fish – you can use any fish – go for the freshest catch of the day at your local fishmonger. Try a mixture of fish to make it a melting pot of flavours and colours. I used fresh bream and king prawns. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with fresh lobsters, I would definitely not hold back!! Shellfish such as mussels, clams and scallops are also fabulous.
This soup can be enjoyed all year round, simultaneously teasing all the senses and indulging the taste buds with the ‘fruits of the sea’. There are three parts to this soup: the first is the vegetable and herb base which softens the full blast of the seafood flavour; second is the whole fish which is poached in the soup to provide that fresh taste of the sea; and finally other fish and seafood are added in the end.
kakavia: Greek fishermen’s soup
cook time: 45 minutes
- 1.5 litre of vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoon of Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 rib of celery stalk, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 300g potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1 egg white
- 1 small whole fish, scaled, for poaching (you will need a piece of tulle or cheese cloth or to wrap the fish).
- 500g fresh prawns – peeled and deveined (leave the heads on)
- 500g fresh fish fillet, boneless (you can use any variety – as long as it’s fresh)
- a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- a drizzle of olive oil
- a wedge of lemon
- a loaf of rustic bread
1. In a large pot, saute the onions, garlic, carrots and celery in olive oil for 10 minutes (covered on medium-high heat) until they soften.
2. Add the bay leaves, thyme, potatoes, tomatoes, wine and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Wrap the whole fish in the cheesecloth or tulle – not too loosely but not too tight. Wrapping the fish prevents the pin bones from falling into the soup.
4. Add the wrapped fish into the soup base. Simmer, uncovered, from 20 minutes.
5. Carefully remove the fish from the soup, unwrap the cloth and take out the pieces of fish meat to set aside. Allow the soup to continue simmering on low heat.
6. Add the shrimps and fish fillets to the soup and cook for 5 minutes on low heat until the shrimps turn pink and the fish fillets are cooked.
7. While the soup is simmering, beat the egg white until stiff in a separate bowl. Scoop out 1/2 cup of soup (without any solids) from the pot and slowly whisk it into the egg white. Stir in the lemon juice. Return this mixture to the simmering pot of soup. This thickens the soup slightly and gives it a lovely rich golden colour.
8. Once the egg mixture is added. Turn off the heat, return the cooked fish meat that was reserved from the whole fish into the soup. Cover for 5 minutes to make use of the residual heat.
9. When serving, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley. Add salt and pepper to season. Serve with rustic bread and a wedge of lemon.