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Dinner

Quick Fish Soup

I am a big fan of the lovefood website. It’s where I get a lot of my home recipes and, in the main, I’m very successful with them. They rate the recipes as easy, medium or hard and although the majority of the recipes I attempt are in the easy category the results are delicious.

Wife and I are both fish fans and so this Quick Fish Soup really appealed for a tasty and healthy mid-week meal. It is a recipe produced by Valentine Warner who is a popular chef often seen on TV and the producer of a number of cook books. His food is big and bold with a real country feel, you can get a number of his recipes on his website.

The original recipe for this dish can be found on the lovefood website here.

Cuisine – British
Recipe Type – Main
Difficulty – Easy
Preparation time – 5 mins
Cooking time – 20 mins
Serves – 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large fresh mackerel, filleted, with each fillet then chopped in 4
  • 1 Splash of olive oil
  • 1 tsp Coriander seeds
  • 3 Large cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 Medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 Small/medium courgettes finely diced
  • 1 Red chilli, split lengthways held intact by stalk, seeds removed
  • 300 ml (10.6fl oz) Water
  • 50 ml (1.8fl oz) Orange juice
  • 50 ml (1.8fl oz) Wine – I have assumed a dry white
  • 5 Medium vine tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Finely chopped fresh dill
  • 0.75 tsp Flaked sea salt

Method of Preparation:

  1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and liquidise. Pass the pulp through a sieve with the back of a spoon to filter out the broken seeds and skin. Really push through every last drop.
  2. Rub the mackerel fillets with a little olive oil on their skin side and cut them as instructed. Heat a large non stick sauce pan on a medium high heat and fry the mackerel fillets, they should immediately sizzle on entering the pan. Fry them until there is one fingers width of pink meat down the middle of each piece, approx 2 minutes.

    Not a lot of juice left…

  3. Remove the mackerel pieces to a plate. There should be a fair amount of fish fat in the pan. Drop in the coriander seeds with the garlic, chilli and thyme then stir for a minute or so to soften. Regulate the heat so as not burn the garlic or fat. Add the carrots and the tomato pulp to the pan with the water wine and orange juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Simmer very gently for 15 minutes, adding the courgette for the last 4 minutes, until the carrot as softened and the liquid reduced a little.
  5. Lower in the mackerel pieces carefully and pour in any juices that leaked onto the plate. Cook the fish for a further 2 minutes in the soup base. Serve with a scattering of dill on top.

So how did I get on? It didn’t go well. I was cooking this for Wife and I and so I just reduced all the ingredients by half, I’d be very interested to hear how someone gets on cooking this same dish for 4.

OK, so the big problem I think for me was in my dicing of the carrots and courgette. There really isn’t a lot of cooking juice (which I suppose would depend on how juicy your tomatoes are, if you look at the volumes there’s only 400ml of fluid plus the tomatoes and when you split that by 4…) so you really do need to chop a really fine dice. Mine was about 1/2cm cubed and it was just too big.

This meant that the carrots took forever to cook, this meant that the soup evaporated off, this meant I had to add more water, wine and  orange juice but I didn’t have any extra tomato juice. Plus, the chilli was in there for a long time and it really started to get over spicy so that had to be removed early. In all this took me about 45 minutes of simmering, adding more fluid and testing to get the carrots soft.

At this point I was pretty devastated and starting to look around for the takeaway menus. Looking at my mackerel waiting patiently on the side there really weren’t a lot of juices on the plate either. I was feeling pretty downhearted but this is why I try all these recipes.

Then something rather miraculous happened.

I added the mackerel back to the dish and the whole thing came together. It was a rich juice with soft carrots and courgettes, a freshness from the tomato and complexity from the chilli, thyme and orange juice was delicious. However, it certainly wasn’t a soup as you can see from the picture.

Call that a soup?

A comment from Wife was that not everybody likes to eat the skin on fish and that’s a fair point. The original cooking of the mackerel really needs the skin to be still on and it’s going to be tough to remove after that unless you flaked the mackerel back in… Hmmm, might work…

Despite the confidence beating I took half way through I really like this dish. To get it cooked in the time frame would require some great knife skills which I think would take the average home cook a lot longer than the 5 minutes prep that Chef Warner suggests. All in all I would say this dish is likely to take 15 – 20 minutes prep and then a further 25 – 30 minutes to cook properly. That’s still only 40 – 50 minutes which I think is just on the edge of acceptable for a mid-week meal.

The total cost of the dish is very low, you could probably serve 4 people for a little under £8.00 assuming you have some wine and coriander seeds to hand. Still though, you’re only using 50ml of wine so it’s a good excuse to crack open a bottle to enjoy with your meal too.

As I said earlier I would love to hear how people get on with the meal when cooked for 4 and also let me know if it all speeds up if your knife skills are clearly better than mine.

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