Monday, February 21, 2011


Seafood soup (sopa de pescados y mariscos).

 Spain has dozens of fish soups—Catalan suquet, Andalusian sopa de rape, Galican caldeirada, Murcia’s caldero. Most of these are basic fishermen’s fare—the catch of the day cooked up in sea water with olive oil and garlic plus bread or potatoes to add substance to the broth.

The Basque version of seafood soup also starts out as a simple marinero preparation. But over the years, as it was adapted by restaurant chefs, the soup has become the five-star standard of Spanish fish soups. So incredibly delicious that it rivals bouillabaisse and other famous seafood soups of the world. This one is outstanding enough to serve to guests on special occasions, especially if made with luxury ingredients such as lobster.

The difference between this soup and the everyday version is that it requires making a fish stock, then a sofrito, then adding enough fish and shellfish to really turn it into a main dish.
Fish head and trimmings for stock.
Crustacean shells (shrimp, lobster or crab) give the soup its depth of flavor, so, if possible, choose shrimp with heads and shells. The restaurant where I first tasted this impressive soup didn’t remove the shells from the clams. They made a little clatter as the soup was ladled into plates. And, you had to get your fingers into the soup to eat them.

When I buy fish, I save the heads, bones and trimmings in the freezer for making fish stock. Likewise, when I’m cooking shrimp, I buy whole ones, unshelled, and save the heads and shells for stock making.

Cuttlefish adds flavor to soup.
Cuttlefish (jibia, sepia) and squid are especially good for adding flavor to seafood stock. Plus, you can add the cooked cuttlefish to the finished soup.The cuttlefish pictured here is cleaned of innards, ink sac and cuttle bone. It's ready to cut up and cook. 
Simple fish broth

If using cuttlefish or squid, save it to add to the final soup. Likewise, cooked fish can be picked off the bones and saved for the soup.

Makes 10 cups broth

1 pound small fish, fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells, small crabs, lobster shells, whole cuttlefish, etc.
12 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 onion
strip of lemon peel
strip of orange peel
1 stalk of celery
small carrot, split lengthwise
several stems of parsley
pinch of thyme

Place all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and skim. Partially cover and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the stock. Save bits of fish for the soup and discard remaining solids.

Saffron goes into this seafood soup.

Seafood Soup
Sopa de Pescados y Mariscos

Monkfish is such a perfect fish for this soup because it’s flavorful and firm, so it doesn’t disintegrate in the broth. Also good is rockfish, such as scorpionfish. I used monkfish plus skate plus cooked cuttlefish from the stock plus flakes of corvina, also from the stock.

Serves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main dish.
10 ounces whole, small shrimp with heads
½ pound Manila or littleneck clams (or 1/4 cup shucked clams)
¼ cup olive oil
2 leeks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup brandy
½ cup white wine
7 cups simple fish broth (see recipe above)
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
pinch of cayenne
salt to taste
pinch of crushed saffron threads
2 slices toasted bread
1 pound boneless monkfish, cut into 1-inch pieces and/or lobster
parsley to garnish
strips of bread fried in olive oil to garnish

Peel the shrimp and reserve them. Keep the heads and shells.

Put the clams in a small pan with 1/2 cup water. Cover and place them on a high heat until shells open. When cool, remove shells and discard them. Reserve clams. Sieve the liquid and add to the fish broth.

In a soup pot heat the oil and sauté the leeks, onion, garlic and carrot for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp shells and continue sautéing on a high heat until contents just begin to brown. Remove from heat.

Add the brandy. (If desired, it can be set alight and the mixture flambéed.) Then add the wine, 1 cup of the fish broth, the tomatoes, cayenne, saffron and salt to taste. Cook the mixture for 20 minutes.

Add the toasted bread, broken into pieces and cook another 10 minutes.

Place the contents of the pot in a food processor or blender and grind as smoothly as possible. Press the pulp through a sieve, discarding the remains of shrimp shells.

Place the pulp in the pot with the remaining fish broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. (The soup can be prepared in advance up to this point.)

Shortly before serving time, add first the chunks of monkfish or lobster to the soup and cook 3 minutes. Then add the reserved and peeled shrimp and cook 2 minutes. Then add the shucked clams and cook 2 minutes. Taste again for salt. Serve garnished with parsley and strips of fried bread.


  1. hmmmmmmmm nice!!

  2. I never thought I could eat fish soup, but!....I have enjoyed this many times in La Carihuela restaurantes de pescado, this has become my favourite starter on the costa.

    1. Jigsaw: Carihuela fish soups are great! Now you can make it at home, too.