quick fish soup

There were more beautiful things, but the best thing about the fish market in Mahon was that it opened at dusk on Monday evenings, so that the people of the Menorcan capital could quickly buy a meal of fresh mullet, dogfish, sepia or scorpion fish. Fresh as in: just caught. In the water around the island.

That was also nice: only local fish were sold. Like the raor, wrasse in Dutch, an almost translucent, iridescent pink-red-purple-blue colored fish that changes sex during its life. ‘Het’ starts as a female, and ends, if not caught prematurely, as a male. You can only catch it with a fishing rod.

Which also made me happy: that they sold soup fish. For 9 euros you could take home a kilo of obsolete fish, crabs and other economically unprofitable by-catch to make stock. They went for 6 euros sin limpar in a pouch; which means as much as that you have to remove the entrails yourself before you throw the animals in the pan.

I hadn’t been home for a day before I missed Mahon’s fish market and regretted not having taken the trouble to buy soup fish there and cook fish soup from it in the holiday kitchen. I hadn’t even tried those fascinating, gender-fluid wrasses (for those who come across them once and want to: simply fried in hot oil seems to be the best).

Oh well, weeks of vacation tend to fly by. Besides, I really had nothing to regret. I had eaten something from the sea every day on Menorca. In a restaurant in the coastal town of Fornells, for example, I tasted a dream of a caldereta de langosta. This soup, made from crawfish shells with tomato and pimentón, is the island’s specialty: coral red, sweet and deeply shellfish-like in taste. Quite unforgettable taste I might say.

Instead of lingering in melancholy musing about a holiday, I better just cycle to a fishmonger in The Hague. One that is closed on Mondays and where the fish is rarely really fresh and/or local. One where they have never heard of soup fish, but nowadays they have heard more and more about bycatch. That was a really good soup that night.

Fish soup for 4 people

Olive oil; 1 onion, chopped; 2 celery stalks, in arcs; 1 fennel bulb, in matches; 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced; 1 tsp fennel seed; 1 tsp pimentón (smoked paprika); 1 tsp thyme; 200 ml of white vermouth (or dry white wine); 1 can of tomato pieces; 800 ml of fish stock; 500 g haddock fillet (or other by-catch whitefish), diced; 250 g sepia, cleaned, in rings; 500 g of mussels, inspected for broken ones; 4 thick slices of bread

heat a generous glug of olive oil in a stockpot and sauté the onion, celery and fennel for a while until soft and sweet.

Joint Add the garlic, fennel seed, pimentón and thyme and let it sauté for a minute.

donate add the vermouth or wine and let it fizz for a while. Joint Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Put the fish, sepia and mussels in the pan and let it simmer for a few minutes under a lid, until everything is just cooked.

sprinkle the bread with some olive oil and toast it crispy.

Put in 4 plates each a slice of bread and spoon the soup over it.

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