Soup in a cup

One of my favourite cookery books was written in 1963. It’s How To Cook Your Catch, by Rube Allyn (and still available today.) I bought it on holiday in Florida a long time ago. I love turning the pages and reading the names – grouper, pompano, grunt, sheepshead, catfish and barracuda. The recipes are fab too – ‘Baked Drumfish Surprise’, ‘Perch Jambalaya’ and ‘Broiled Yellowtail’.

This soup is made with red mullet caught off Devon or Cornwall. Once cooked it has the look of something more exotic, while remaining packed with the flavour of a wild Atlantic fish. Bony though, so be vigilant.

Ingredients per person: One fresh whole red mullet, gutted and scaled. Half a white onion, a large courgette or even better, the same amount of marrow. Four or five large tomatoes, halved, a red pepper, a chili, a small bouquet of fresh thyme, oregano and basil, a sprinkle of saffron, sea salt and ground black pepper. 30ml olive oil, 20ml single cream, a handful of cooked, shelled Atlantic prawns, parsley.

Method: In a deep cast iron pot on a medium heat sauté the sliced or diced courgettes, peppers, chili, chopped herbs and tomatoes in half the oil. When softened, mash down with a potato masher and then blend. Add a little water and white wine to thin it down a bit. Then bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer.

At the same time cook the whole fish with the sliced onion and the rest of the oil in a frying pan. When it is not quite done, take the fish off the bone and set aside. Return the bones, juice and other scraps to the pan, along with any shells from the prawns. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave be for at least 15 – 30 minutes, but don’t let it go dry. Try to end up with about 100 – 150ml liquid.

Assemble the soup by straining in the bone broth, then blend. Add a spoonful of single cream and blend again. Go through the fish chunks and remove all the little bones, then add the fish to the soup. After a few minutes the fish will be ready. Add the prawns, parsley and any bits of red pepper or chili lying around, check the seasoning and it is done. Serve with toast or as here – home made tortillas. Easy to make it into a red chowder – just add diced potatoes.

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