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15 December 2006 -  The Fish Soup
 

This fish soup is always a success, does not cost much but needs a solid two hours to make. On that particular occasion we were 6 for dinner and I choose two not too big snapper’s heads, the essential basis of the dish, and one good-sized gurnard. I was really looking for two or three other smaller fishes such as, pipers, flounders, mullet, or mackerel. It all depends on what is available on the day. You will also need one leek, two large carrots, two fat tomatoes (In winter these can be very expensive, I paid four dollars for two big ones, this can be replaced by tomato sauce really), one big onion, two or three potatoes, one branch of celery, spices such as pepper, oregano, thymes, fresh dill, and turmeric, parmesan cheese, one egg and a bit of vinegar, olive oil, one clove of garlic, one bottle of 1997 Clifton road sauvignon blanc, a flask of Pastis or Pernod ( or Ouzo), one fresh baguette.


Nina caught a nice snapper.

I also bought one large bunch of flowers to brighten the house.

You will need a large pot, a strong wooden spoon, a small glass and the most essential utensil: a mechanical vegetable mill with three sieves of different grades, large, medium and fine. (It is not recommended to use an electrical appliance. A manual process will sort out the fish bones, which would otherwise be mashed into the soup, giving it an unpleasant aftertaste. Fish bones are used to make glue, not soup.)

The fishes being scaled and gutted slice them in large chunks and throw them in the pot on hot cooking oil, along with the two fish heads. Do not waste virgin olive oil for that, plain cooking oil will do. Peel and slice all the vegetables and add in the pot, along with the spices, cover with water, add some salt and half a cup of Pastis. Let the whole thing cook on medium heat for about an hour, turning with the wooden spoon every now and then.

Use that time to prepare other things; grate the cheese finely and keep aside, break the egg and mix the yolk with a spoonful of vinegar,  and pour yourself a glass of wine. You can also use this time to prepare eight croutons. Cut eight fine slices out off the baguette and in a flat pan; fry them for a few minutes each side in lots of your best olive oil, until golden crisp. Let the oil drip out of the croutons and frig them liberally with garlic.  Keep the croutons aside for later use, pour yourself another glass on wine and do not let yourself be distracted by your loving wife musing around you, drinking out of your glass, fixing you in the eyes with a wicked smile, for you will need all your energy for the next step.

Pass the soup through each grade of the mill until you obtain a very smooth soup. This can be quite a messy business, put on an apron. My wife loves it when I wear an apron. I remember one hot day when I was not wearing much under the apron, she mused around me, drank out of my glass, fixed me in the eyes with a wicked smile but that is another story…

Add the egg the soup. It can then go back on a very small flame until it is time to serve.   I had a quick shower, shaved, dressed, and poured myself another glass of wine. When they arrived, I was glad to see that my guests had brought with them a nice bottle of Chardonnay as I had already well tried the day’s reserve.

To serve, place one crouton at the bottom of each plate and pour the soup over it, sprinkle with grated cheese. Offer your guest to add a few drops of chilli sauce. (Not half the bottle Robyn !)

 

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