Saturday, May 12, 2012


Suquet--a Barcelona fisherman's soup.

In my story in today’s Los Angeles Times food pages I take you on a seafood soup tour round the coastlines of Spain. Read the article and recipes here,0,5951228.story. Then, read on for a recipe that didn't appear in that article.

With more than 3000 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder Spain has such a variety of seafood soups. Spain occupies most of the Iberian peninsula, surrounded by oceans—clockwise from the top, the Atlantic, the Cantabrian Sea and the Bay of Biscay, where Spain curves around to meet France. Skip across the land border with France, connecting Spain to the European continent, and you arrive on the Mediterranean coasts, stretching all the way from the French border (and not so distant from bouillabaisse country) to the Straits of Gibraltar.

Fishing boat on a Mediterranean beach.
Pass through the Straits and you are back to the Atlantic Ocean. (Portugal—no slouch when it comes to seafood soups—occupies much of the western coast of the Iberian peninsula.) Two Spanish archipelagos, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean between Spain and Italy, and the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco, contribute to Spain’s mix of seafaring soups.

Space limitations meant that one of my favorite seafood soup recipes didn’t make the cut in the LA Times —the fabulous suquet of Barcelona. So, here’s that recipe.

In Barcelona, on the Mediterranean, in the old Barceloneta fishing port, is a restaurant called El Suquet de L’Amirall. Here, chef/proprietor Quim Marqués, interprets the traditional dishes of fishermen and fishermen’s wives.

The name of the restaurant, “suquet,” comes from the best-known Barcelona fish soup. In his book about the seafaring cuisine of Barcelona, La Cocina de la Barcelona Marinera, Quim explains that suquet was typically made on board fishing boats when the catch was abundant.

The secret to suquet is the picada, a mixture of crushed garlic, parsley and almonds that is stirred into the broth. A lightly aromatic stock in which to cook the fish and a dollop of alioli, garlic mayonnaise, to serve it turn this Barcelona dish into one of the best seafood soups in the world.

What fish to use? Monkfish works really well because it's sweet and flavorful and won't disintegrate in cooking. Halibut or cod could be used as well, or, experiment with other white fish.

Suquet is flavored with a picada of crushed almonds and garlic.
Suquet del Pescador
Barcelona Fisherman’s Soup

For the stock:

1 to 2 pounds small fish, cuttlefish or squid, fish heads and trimmings, crustacean shells, small crabs, etc.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
parsley stems
freshly ground black pepper
10 cups water

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Sauté the onion, leek, carrot, celery and garlic on a medium-high heat until onion is golden. Add crustaceans, such as shrimp heads and shells and sauté on high heat. Add the tomatoes and continue to fry and stir on a medium-high heat until tomato is reduced and beginning to brown.

Add remaining fish, heads and trimmings, salt, bay leaf, lemon, parsley, pepper and water. Bring to a boil, skim off the froth that rises to the top and reduce heat so liquid bubbles gently. Cover and cook for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then strain the stock. Press on the solids to extract all the liquid. Any bits of cooked fish or cuttlefish, without bones, can be picked out and saved to add to soup, if desired.

Makes about 8 cups of stock. Stock can be kept, refrigerated, up to two days or frozen for up to two months.

For the almond picada:

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup almonds, blanched and skinned
2 cloves garlic
1 slice bread, crusts removed
¼ cup parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a small skillet. Fry the almonds, garlic and bread, turning, until lightly browned on all sides. Remove and cool briefly.

Grind the almonds, garlic, bread and parsley, along with any remaining oil, in a mortar or in a mini food processor. The picada is ready to add to soup or stew.

For the alioli (garlic mayonnaise):

A dollop of garlic mayonnaise to serve.

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg, at room temperature
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or vinegar

Put the garlic and egg in a blender and pulse until garlic is finely chopped. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow trickle, allowing it to be absorbed by the egg before adding more. Blend in all the oil. The sauce will emulsify and thicken. Blend in the salt and lemon juice.

The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

Makes 1 cup of sauce.

For the fish soup:

2 tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium potatoes (such as russets), about 1 pound 6 ounces, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
almond picada (recipe above)
4 cups fish stock (recipe above)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 ½ pounds monkfish fillets, cut into chunks
½ pound small clams (such as Manila)
¼ pound peeled shrimp
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons alioli garlic mayonnaise (recipe above)

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove core. Use the coarse side of a box grater to grate the tomatoes. Discard the skins.

Heat the oil in a wide pot or deep skillet. Add the tomato pulp and fry on a medium-high heat until it turns darker in color. Add the sliced potatoes, the almond picada and the fish stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 15 minutes.

Add the wine, chunks of fish and clams. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until potatoes and fish are cooked and clam shells opened, 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked.

Place alioli in a small bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the hot soup to thin it. Stir the alioli into the soup immediately before serving.

Serves 4 as a main course.


  1. Hi Janet,

    I hold a monthly blogger soup event. This month is Spanish Soup. It would be great if you wanted to participte too.......


    1. Debs: the Spanish Wok is intriguing. Ultimate fusion? I imagine your Spanish Soup event will gather some great entrants.

  2. Hi,

    Recently I came across some great articles on your site. The other day, I was discussing ( ) with my colleagues and they suggested I submit an article of my own. Your site is just perfect for what I have written! Would it be ok to submit the article? It is free of charge, of course!

    Let me know what you think
    Contact me at

    John Anderson

    1. John: MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN is a personal blog,with recipes tested by me, so I don't take articles by others. Your comments are welcome, however.

  3. David G Cercone 2June 3, 2012 at 5:23 AM


    You are currently my fave blogger! :)

    I dote upon Monkfish our dear old Rape, and made Suquet tonight, thanks to you, splendid recipe that is now in my repertoire, your blog is brilliant and ever so useful, so many thanks M'Lady!


    1. David: Thanks for the rave review. Glad you enjoyed the suquet recipe.