Danube delta fish soup. Fisherman’s style with freshwater fish and vegetables.
There are many fish soup recipes, all around the globe, if there’s water there’s fish soup. This recipe though, comes close (some would say far away though) the soup that the Danube delta fisherman make.
Although not always for themselves, as vegetables are scarce around the delta, and sometimes, an onion, carrot and one potato is all they put into it. Therefore, I should have called this a Deluxe Danube delta fish soup…
This is not a recipe for just a few people. This is for a gathering, the 18 litres cast iron cauldron was used, and would serve over 20 hungry persons. It’s not an easy recipe, nor does it take little time to make it. Carp, catfish and small freshwater fish are the main protagonists here.
But the wait and the effort are rewarded in the end with taste, flavour and joy. Rich fish stock, soft vegetables, and large pieces of fish to grab the meat off. There are no exact quantities here, use what you have around the house, mix and match to your taste.
- 3-4kg small fish (roach, bream, rudd, etc)
- 2-3kg large fish (carp, catfish)
- Vegetables: onion, garlic, carrot, celeriac, parsnip
- Herbs: lovage, dill, parsley, chives or spring onion tops
- Oil, vinegar, tomato passata
- 2kg potatoes
- 2-300g rice
- 2 lemons
- fresh or pickled chilies
Prepare the vegetables. Dice all the onions, carrots, celeriac and parsnip. Peel the garlic and mince in a mincer, or finely chop and then mash it together with some salt. Chop the spring onion greens and keep aside till the end. Dice the potatoes into larger cubes, roughly 2cmx2cm.
You’ll need the fish stock first. And this is where all the small fish come into play. Bring some water to boil, and add all the small fish (cleaned of course) to the pot. Let them simmer on a low heat for about 45 minutes. They’ll break apart and give the fish soup all the rich fish flavour.
Strain the liquid (do not throw it away in the sink) through a fine sieve. Discard the solids. Let the fish stock sit for 20 minutes so all the impurities left after straining sink to the bottom.
Now add the oil to the large pan. Cleaned of course after boiling the fish. Just enough to cover the base of the pot. Get the oil hot and add all the diced vegetables, minus the potatoes, spring onions and garlic. Soften for about 5-10 minutes, depending on quantity.
Once softened, pour in the fish stock, slowly, to keep anything that settled on the bottom out. Bring to simmer again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the rice (optional but it brings on another texture and thickens the soup a touch). Quarter the lemons, squeeze and add to the pan, skins and all.
Season the broth with some vinegar now, not a lot, there’s lemon, and it can be seasoned again at the end. Taste. Season. Once it boils for 5 minutes, add the tomato passata (aprox 1L, and again this is optional) and the potatoes.
Now is time for the big fish. Cut into larger pieces (they need to fit into the plate), place the fish into a muslin bag. Make some sort of a bag from a square of muslin by placing the fish in the middle, raise the corners and tie it up so the pieces stay together.
Hang the bag over, or place it inside the large pot of soup. Simmer gently for just 10 minutes and the fish is done. Remove slowly, keep aside, discard the lemons.
Almost there. Add all the chopped herbs and the spring onions, also the garlic. Taste once more for salt and pepper, lemon or vinegar. Stir well. Serve in soup bowls, with pieces of the larger fish aside and always chili. Fresh or pickled, whichever is available.
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