Sensational Fish Soup

Fish Soup

Whether we like it or not, us kosher cooks are sometimes limited when it comes to certain flavors. The iconic bouillabaisse is a case in point, with its distinctive flavors drawn from the mix of seafood used to make the dish. Whenever I see recipes for any type of fish soup, seafood is a requirement, so…next! It’s disappointing.

Last week, I came across a New York Times recipe for Fish Soup, where the main ingredient was actually just fish. I got very excited and I immediately tested it out. It was everything it promised to be. It had that perfect taste of the sea, with a flavorful tomato base. The dish is light and healthy, but is still excellent comfort food for the winter.

Make this and impress your friends and family. It’s a good one!

You can serve this as a main course or a first course – my quantities here are for a first course. You can prepare the soup ahead of time and heat it up just before you want to cook the fish. Make sure you have some hot crusty fresh bread to go along with it.

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) firm white-fleshed fish fillets, skin removed – I used “mussar yam” (Red Drum), you can also use “locus” (Bass), “denis” (sea bream) or cod

6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

6-8 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed

Olive oil

1-2 large onions, chopped

3 sticks of celery, diced

medium carrots, diced

Salt

1.2 kg (42 ounces) canned chopped tomatoes (a big can and small can)

1.5 liters water

800g (1.5 lb) small baby potatoes, washed and quartered (they should be small bite sized pieces). 

A bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme (use half a teaspoon of dried thyme if you don’t have fresh), half a red chilli (deseeded) or a whole one if you want a little more spice in the soup – tied together with string (if you don’t have string kicking around, don’t worry)

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley

How to do it

  1. In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic cloves, ½ a teaspoon salt and the anchovy fillets and mash. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic in a garlic press, chop the anchovies as finely as possible with a knife and mix together well in a small bowl with the salt. Set aside
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot and add the onion, celery, carrot and ½ a teaspoon of salt, and saute until the onion is tender, about five minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and anchovy and stir together, cooking for another about 1 minute. Smell that!
  4. Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil and turn down the heat and simmer, stirring every now and again, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add the water, potatoes, salt to taste, and the bouquet garni. (If you don’t have string, throw all the components in to the soup and fish them out before you serve.) Bring the soup to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover partially and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and add pepper to taste. Remove the bouquet garni  when it’s finished simmering.
  6. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper on both sides, and stir the fish into the hot soup. The soup should not be boiling. Simmer for five to 10 minutes or just until the fish falls apart when poked with a fork. When the fish fillets are cooked, pull the fish apart into smaller pieces.
  7. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped parsley, and add more seasoning if required.

Serves about 8 as a side dish

Fish Pie Made Easy

Fish Pie

I tend to whine about fish. Not all fish, mainly fish in Israel. It’s just not great, and you can see in my archives that I don’t have a whole lot of recipes because I’m never very inspired by the fish available here. The flipside is that I love eating fish.

Watch any British cooking show and the famous Fish Pie will often make an appearance. I’ve always like the idea of a fish pie because it’s a good way to disguise fish that isn’t magnificent. The classic English fish pie features wonderful smoked haddock. It’s easy to find in the UK and in South Africa, but certainly not in any stores in Israel, and I imagine that you’d have to go to a specialty store in the US to find it. Having been put off from trying to make a fish pie for this reason for years, I recently decided to just give it a go. I messed about with a few recipes, and the result was a very tasty and colorful fish pie. I happily now have an additional fish dish in my repertoire and it’s a crowd pleaser too.

With winter just around the corner, this is a good recipe to have on hand and it firmly fall into the comfort food category.

Ingredients

1 kg potatoes

3-4 tablespoons butter

1 carrot very finely diced

2 sticks celery very finely diced

Olive oil

150 g good-quality Cheddar cheese

Juice of 1 lemon

½ fresh red chilli finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

400 g skinned salmon fillets

400 g skinned fillets of a firm white fish – hake/bass/meagre (if you live in a country where you can get smoked haddock, use haddock)

200 g fake shrimp (optional). If you can’t get hold of this product in your supermarket, increase the quantity of the fish in equal parts.

2 ripe tomatoes , quartered

Salt and Pepper

1 beaten egg

How to do it

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Add them to a large pot of cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are fully cooked through (when you pierce them with a fork they will easily yield.  Drain the water off. In the same pot, add the butter, salt and pepper and mash together until smooth. You can also use olive oil instead of butter if you’re feeling healthy. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables in a pan in some olive oil until soft.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F)

    Fish mixture

    Fish mixture

  4. Lightly grease a deep oven proof dish. Cut the fishes into bite size chunks and mix them in a large mixing bowl. Add the sauteed vegetables, cheese, chilli, parsley, lemon juice, tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil over all of it. Grind some black pepper and salt over the top and mix it all together. Spread evenly into the baking dish.
  5. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the fish mixture. Brush the top of the potato with some beaten egg.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves about 6.

A Respite from Rosh Hashana Overeating with Salmon

Asian Aalmon

Asian Salmon

This year, Rosh Hashana is a doozie – two days of chag and then Shabbat. What this means in a nutshell is a lot of eating. The number of meals ahead of us from Wednesday evening until Shabbat is over is better left uncounted. So much to cook and so much to eat begs for at least one simple and light dairy meal to be added to the mix.

If you’re looking for a ridiculously quick, easy and very delicious main course, here’s a recipe for a side of salmon with light Asian flavors that is in constant demand in my house. I’m glad it is because it takes minutes to prepare and in less than half an hour it’s cooked. Try to find a nice meaty piece of salmon and make every effort not to overcook it. Don’t forget that the delicate flesh of the salmon will continue to cook a little on the hot baking tray after  you’ve removed it from the oven, so remove it in plenty of time.

Add this to your repertoire and I guarantee that you’ve be making this over and over again.

ASIAN SALMON

Ingredients

1 whole fillet (side) of salmon (about 1 kg/2 lbs)

4 tablespoons Mirin

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

How to do it

1. Line a large oven baking tray with tin foil – make sure the foil is large enough to wrap around the whole salmon with space to spare. Place the salmon in the middle of the foil

2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl till combined and pour over the salmon. Gather up the sides of the foil, leaving space above the fish so the fish can steam when cooking. Seal all the sides very well. Leave to marinade for 10-15 minutes or even up to an hour.

3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350ºF).

4. Bake the fish in the oven for 20 minutes. Then open up the foil and allow the fish to cook for another 5 minutes so the top can caramelize slightly. Do not overcook – test the fish by sliding a fork into the meatiest part of the fish and if it’s still just slightly under-cooked in the middle, remove the fish and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Save the sauce to spoon over the fish when serving.

Serves about 5 as a main course.

Easy, Yummy Thai Fish Curry for the last Days of Succot

Thai Fish Curry

I love it when the chaggim fall in the middle of the week, and we get a little more vacation than usual. The downside is that I feel like I am constantly cooking meals. The key here is finding quick and tasty meals to make so we can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying our time in the Succah.

My clever husband was meandering through the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and stumbled on fresh limes from Tekoa Farms, purveyors of exotic, specialized fruit and vegetables. This was an exciting moment as I’ve always wanted to be able to get hold of limes in Israel, and this is the first time. When life gives you limes, you make Thai food!

Look out for these packaged limes by Tekoa Farms in your supermarket’s produce refrigerator

As this is the season of Succah entertaining, I had stocked up on the recently readily available South African hake fillets imported by Sunfish (another exciting moment in Israel’s food retailing history). This firm, white fish is perfect when matched with the tangy tastes of Thai curry. The recipe I threw together on the fly was so quick to make and the results spoke for themselves – a very empty serving dish within minutes.

The hake fillets are great for us Israeli and South African cooks, but any firm white fish fillet will work well with this recipe.

THAI FISH CURRY

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) white fish fillets cut into individual serving-sized pieces

2-3 teaspoons oil

2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped or grated ginger

5 cloves of garlic crushed

1 mild red or green chili finely chopped (according to taste – this curry is not a spicy one.) Note: Do not touch the chili with your bare hands. Either use gloves or use a fork to hold the chili as you chop it. If you do get any on your hands, wash them very well before touching any part of your body. Chili residue burns like crazy!

500 ml (17 fl oz) coconut milk

Juice of 1 lime or a small lemon

½ teaspoon of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3-4 peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes (don’t use canned for this)

3-4 chopped green onions

¼ cup freshly chopped coriander leaves + a few whole coriander leaves for garnish

Green and pretty and ready for the wok

How to do it

1. Heat the oil in a wok

2. Add ginger and saute for a few minutes. Add the chili and saute for another few minutes, making sure they don’t start to burn. Add the garlic and saute briefly, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

3. Add the coconut milk, lime/lemon juice, turmeric, salt, sugar and tomatoes, stir and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for a few minutes. (Tip: You can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat it and cook the fish just before you want to serve it.)

Cook the fish in the simmering curry

4. Bring the liquid to the boil and add the fish. Reduce the heat until the liquid is simmering, cover and cook until fish is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add coriander and green onion and pour into a serving dish.

5. Garnish with the fresh coriander leaves and serve with white rice.

Serves about 6.

Minty Salmon: A Perfect Summer Main Course

Serve the salmon hot or cold

Here’s a tip for busy people who also entertain: Always keep a fillet of salmon in the freezer for those last minute dinner guests. Yesterday I retrieved my “emergency” salmon from my freezer when my sister-in-law called in the morning to say they were coming over for dinner. What I love about fish is that it takes no more than 20 minutes to cook. And if you are really short of time, there’s no need to marinade it either as the delicate flesh of the fish absorbs flavors quickly and easily, unlike meat.

But yesterday I had the time to make a quick marinade, and I was glad I did. I found a recipe in the newspaper a few months ago that caught my eye, and I’d been wanting to try it for a while. The fillet is marinaded in a mint and honey mixture. I wasn’t sure about the combination of salmon and mint, but it works beautifully. It adds a fresh taste to the fish, and the flavor of the mint is strong enough that it doesn’t get cooked away in the oven. The key is not to overcook the salmon – 20 minutes is plenty. I served this with pasta and a green salad for a delicious and light quick meal that didn’t keep me in the kitchen all day.

MINTY SALMON WITH HONEY AND GARLIC

Ingredients

1 whole salmon fillet of about 1½ kg (3 lbs) with the skin

The juice of one lemon

1 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves

Mint, honey and garlic marinade – smells magnificent

10-15 cloves of garlic crushed or chopped

4 tablespoons honey

½ cup olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

How to do it

1. Line a baking pan with two layers of baking paper. Drain extra liquid off the salmon and lay it on the paper.

Salmon in mint, honey and garlic

2. Mix all remaining ingredients in a small bowl to make the marinade. Pour the marinade evenly over the salmon. Cover with foil and place it in the refrigerator for four hours.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Uncover the salmon and bake for 18-20 minutes or until it’s just cooked (do not dry it out – the flesh can still be a little raw inside when you take it out of the oven as it will continue to cook on the very hot baking pan after you remove it from the heat).

Serves about 8. Can be served hot or cold.

Ready for Shavuot? Fish goes well with dairy

Shavuot is just round the corner, and with it, the dairy meals we are accustomed to eating. There are several explanations for how this tradition came about. One is that when Bnei Yisrael received the Torah and they were bound for the first time by the the laws of kashrut. But they didn’t have the proper slaughtering knives they would need to prepare kosher meat, so they had to eat a dairy meal after receiving the Torah. One of my favorite explanations is that  the Torah is equated with milk, as it is written in Song of Songs 4:11, “Like honey and milk (the Torah) lies under your tongue”. So like milk, the Torah sustains us and therefore a dairy meal on Shavuot celebrates the nourishing quality of the Torah. For additional explanations, please see Aish.com.

But let’s take the Shavuot meal one step at a time…While this a great opportunity to break out the cheesy lasagnas, delicious quichesand of course, the cheesecake for dessert (recipe later this week), let’s not forget about a protein to tie it all together. There’s nothing like fish to make a dairy meal complete.

Oven steamed fish ready to eat

One of my favorite reasons for making fish is that it’s so quick to prepare and to cook. This recipe is the simplest way to cook a large fillet of fish – I use this for salmon or any large white fish fillet. Preferably it should be one large piece, but you can also use the same recipe for two or three smaller pieces (see the pictures where I was using very delicious frozen Sun Fish fillets, which are now available in Israel and claim to be South African hake).

The principle is the same for all fish – seal the fillet in foil with light seasoning and bake for about 20-25 minutes, and you can’t go wrong with this fish that steams in its own liquid. It’s light, low fat and the added benefit  is that the house doesn’t smell fishy afterwards.

OVEN STEAMED FISH FILLET

Ingredients

1-1½ kg (2½-3½lb) fish fillet – salmon, or any other firm white fish.

A little olive oil

About ¼ cup of white wine

Juice of half a lemon

2-3 cloves of garlic sliced

Salt and pepper

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

Prepare the fish on the foil

2. Place your fillet in the center of  a large piece of foil on a baking tray – the foil needs to be big enough to cover the entire fillet loosely.

3. Rub a little olive oil into the fish on both sides. Season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle the garlic slices evenly over the fish and squeeze the lemon. Drizzle the wine over the fish – don’t drench it.

4. Gather the foil up and seal it over the fish, making sure there is space between the foil and the fish – this enables the fish to steam cook.

Seal the foil really well leaving space for steaming

5. Place the baking tray on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Check to see if the fish is cooked – insert a fork into the fattest part of the fish – if you feel resistance, let the fish cook for another 5 minutes. If the fish flakes with little resistance, then it is ready. Don’t overcook…

6. Remove the fish and serve hot or cold.

Serves about 8.

Serve with home made tartar sauce: Finely chop 2-3 dill pickles, half a small onion and about a quarter cup of capers. Crush one small clove of garlic. Mix all into about 3/4 cup of mayonnaise seasoned with salt and pepper.

Another Hearty Winter Soup: Salmon Chowder

I’m not a big fan of canned food and there are only a few products for which I am prepared to reach for the can opener. One of them is canned salmon. I can’t say that I love the icky bits inside a can of salmon, but this recipe for a salmon chowder makes the effort to separate the salmon from the yuck worth your while. And since I don’t often make fish because Israel isn’t a great fish country, this is a good way to get a fish dish on the table.

This is a diary soup, and I’ve never tried it with non-dairy substitutes because I’m not sure it will turn out well. But if you decide to try it and it works, please do let me know. But there are enough occasions that call for dairy, and this will impress.

SALMON CHOWDER

Ingredients 

Salmon Chowder

2 cans pink salmon flaked (remove all skin and bones)

2 cups frozen corn

1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped

2 red peppers fine chopped

1 onion finely chopped

4 medium-sized potatoes cubed into bite sized pieces and par boiled for 5 minutes (bring potatoes to the boil in a pot of water and let simmer for 5 minutes or until a fork can pierce the potatoes. Drain.)

2 tablespoons of oil or butter

2 tablespoons flour

5 cups milk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsely

Salt and black pepper

How to do it

1. In a large pot, heat the oil/butter and saute the onion, peppers and jalapeno pepper until soft and the onions are translucent.

2. Stir the flour into the vegetables and then the milk. Cook and stir for a few minutes until it starts thickening slightly.

3. Add the par boiled potatoes, salmon, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook it through until hot. If it’s too thick, you can add a little parev chicken stock till you get the desired consistency.

Serves about 6.

Go Fish

You may have wondered why I don’t have any fish recipes up on my blog. Well, it’s a sad tale. As an ex-South African, the one thing I miss most about living there is the fish. South African fish is without doubt the most delicious fish in the world (or at least the Western world). It is meaty, firm, flaky when cooked, plentiful and really hard to beat. I’ve eaten fish in Australia, the UK, Canada, Europe and the US and while there is wonderful fish in those regions, I haven’t found anything that comes close to South African fish.

That brings me to Israel. The fish here is, in two words, not good. There’s almost no local sea fish and the farmed freshwater fish are at best so-so. There are fish shops that sell fresh sea fish, but it’s usually extremely expensive. I do recommend that once in a while, you treat yourself and your family and go for a beautiful piece of fresh fish. Otherwise, it’s the frozen muck that will just have to do. I have tried a lot of different frozen fish. The frozen salmon is always an good option because it’s meaty enough to withstand the freezing process and you can get very decent results. Recently, I’ve been getting frozen halibut in the supermarkets. One recipe that has worked really well was a poached halibut and this will inaugurate my fish section.

I always make new fish dishes with trepidation because of the quality of the fish. Here, the method keeps the fish moist, the flavors work really well and it’s very low fat. When I made this, it was gobbled up with delight.

Poached Halibut in White Wine and Peppers

POACHED HALIBUT IN WHITE WINE AND PEPPERS

Ingredients 

1 kg frozen halibut (you can also use any other firm fish such as salmon)

2 cups white wine or chicken broth (or a combination of the two)

2 red peppers finely chopped

¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper flakes (optional – this adds a really nice spicy kick. If your family doesn’t like spicy, leave it out)

4 cloves of garlic crushed

Salt and ground black pepper

How to do it

1. Thaw the fish, rinse it and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) wide slices and pat dry.

2. In a large wok or skillet, combine the wine/stock, peppers, cayenne pepper and garlic and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Halibut poaching in the wine and peppers

3. Add the fish to the liquid skin side down in one layer, sprinkle each piece with salt and pepper and spoon the liquid over all the pieces of fish. Cover and continue to simmer for about 12 minutes or until the fish begins to flake when you separate it with a fork.

4. Remove the fish from the liquid and place it on a serving plate. Drain the peppers and use them to decorate the platter.

Serve with lemon wedges.