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Fish and shellfish soup, Spanish style

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

fish and shellfish soup with picada
I like the type of fish soup with a somewhat thick and hearty stock, the base for various interesting and floating things like shellfish and pieces of fleshy fish. The Mediterranean in a bowl... yum. My soup includes a base stock made with fish and shellfish, a sofrito made with onion and tomato that's pureed with the stock, a picada that's added almost at the end of the boiling and little pieces of fish, shellfish like mussels or even rice added as garnish to the stock.

Sopa de pescado or fish and shellfish soup (yields around 8 servings)

Base stock:
Make a fish stock by boiling the following ingredients in 2 liters of water for half an hour:

  • One large salmon bone and one large monkfish bone (any combination of fish bones is good, but the monkfish is especially flavourful)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bay leaf
Discard the solids after the boiling.

fish stock
Then, boil the following shellfish in a different pot, in half a liter of water:
  • 10 shrimps
  • 4 small crawfish
I do this in a different pot only because you have to fish the shrimps and crawfish later and shell them, it's easier if you have them in a smaller recipient. Bring the pot to a boil and turn the heat off immediately. Leave it to cool and shell them.

Then pour a glass of white wine in another pot to steam:
  • 10 small mussels
  • 10 small clams
You can pour yourself a glass of white wine too... that will make for a merrier cooking process. This time I used some leftover cava I had in the fridge instead of the wine. Keep the liquid in the pot and leave aside. Shell the mussels and clams and leave aside.

fish stock
Once all the ingredients are cooked, drain all the three liquids and pour them in one single pot, that is, the fish bones and vegetables stock, the shrimps and crawfish stock and the mussels stock. Then start the sofrito by dicing and frying in olive oil the following ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp ñora flesh
  • 1 cup crushed tomato
Start by frying the diced onion and garlic. When the onion is wilted, add the ñora. Ñoras are typical Spanish sweet round red peppers. They impart a wonderful flavour and are widely used in paellas, for example. They're usually sold dry and they have to be soaked in water for some time before opening them and scraping the pepper's flesh. Anyway, you can skip it if you don't have it. Then add the tomato and fry everything while stirring, around 8-10 minutes, just enough for the water in the tomato to evaporate. It's the tomato and ñora which give the soup its healthy reddish color.

For thickening the base stock I like to add a hake or whiting fillet at the end of the sofrito, to be pureed later with the vegetables. You can also add some potato if you like your stock even thicker. Then puree the sofrito, you can add some fish stock to make it easier. The puree is added to the stock and everything is heated together for around 5 minutes, for the flavours to meld. Then you can add any kind of garnish you prefer, you can even boil a handful of rice in the stock for a heartier soup. In my case I added the shrimps, crawfish, mussels, clams and also some diced cuttlefish and squid, previously stir-fried with some oil. Try the soup for salt and add if needed.

This time I wanted to try and add some picada. The picada is a thick paste made by pounding garlic, almonds, hazelnuts or any other nut, parsley, saffron and toasted bread together in a mortar, then a spoonful of olive oil is added. It's typically added to all kind of dishes if you want more thickness and flavour. Here's a excerpt from Colman Andrews' Catalan Cuisine:

No other European cuisine has anything quite like the picada - which, as noted, is a thickening and flavoring agent made up of such ingredients as garlic, fried bread, olive oil (or some other liquid), and various nuts, herbs, and/or spices, all pounded together with a mortar and pestle. (...) The picada closest relatives are probably Italy's pesto (which likewise involves garlic, nuts and herbs crushed in a mortar) and gremolada ( the Milanese herb-and-garlic mixture traditionally added to osso bucco) - but pesto clearly is a sauce, and both substances, unlike the picada, have limited and highly specialized uses, and a more or less regularized composition.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 15 almonds, toasted and skinned
  • 15 hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 1 slice toasted bread (I prefer it fried with oil)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 stems saffron
  • Olive oil
The paste must be thoroughly pounded, until no pieces of nut can be discerned. Hard job for me, I'm quite a weakling. Then add the paste to the soup, boil for a further 2 minutes then turn off the heat. Try for salt again and adjust if necessary. I loved the effect of the picada, you could make out a faint raw garlic flavour, and the nuts give the soup more thickness... delicious.

fish and shellfish soup with picada
Serve the soup in bowls, as rustic as can be. I also love to float a fried slice of bread on top of each bowl... why all things fatty are so good? One of the misteries of the Universe.

20 comentarios:

Diana Bauman November 23, 2009 at 8:48 PM  

Miriam, this is absolutely beautiful! I love the combinations of stocks and picada. A flavorful dish indeed! Of course, if only I had the seafood to replicate this at home.


Robin, David, Simon and Leo November 23, 2009 at 9:21 PM  


Brie: Le Grand Fromage November 24, 2009 at 12:52 AM  

mmmmm, this soup looks velvety and hearty - delicious! the little shrimp also looks like he's saying, "helloooooooo!"

Belinda @zomppa November 24, 2009 at 2:02 AM  

As always, beautiful. Perfect for rainy nights!

we are never full November 24, 2009 at 2:27 AM  

as if your dishes hadn't won me over before, this one has DONE it. i absolutely love shellfish soup. the color is brightened by the saffron. i absolutely love this and may have to try your recipe. absolutely lovely.

TasteHongKong November 24, 2009 at 5:31 AM  

I adore the idea of adding rice in the soup. But first I have to check out if the dried peppers, noras, are available here in our place.

singerinkitchen November 24, 2009 at 5:34 AM  

What beautiful colors. The soup sounds fantastic. I can hear the ocean now.

Liz Marr, MS, RD November 24, 2009 at 6:11 AM  

Wow, as I read through your post, the soup just kept sounding better and better. I'm half a world a way but feel like I'm in Spain right now. Must try.

citronetvanille November 24, 2009 at 7:19 AM  

Beautiful soup! love the color and the ingredients. I wish I could eat some right now

Thibeault's Table November 24, 2009 at 4:34 PM  

Great photo.

Simones Kitchen November 24, 2009 at 4:53 PM  

I am not a huge fan of fishsoup I have to confess but your soup looks absolutely gorgeous and that first photo is just fabulous!

Cheah November 24, 2009 at 5:53 PM  

I'm sure this seafood soup will be very delicious.

Tasty Trix November 24, 2009 at 6:43 PM  

What a stunning soup!!!!!

Tasty Eats At Home November 24, 2009 at 7:40 PM  

This looks so comforting and lovely.

Simply Life November 24, 2009 at 10:59 PM  

Oh my, this looks absolutely amazing!I I feel like I can taste all the fresh flavors now!

chow and chatter November 24, 2009 at 11:12 PM  

oh wow looks amazing and great picture

Anonymous November 24, 2009 at 11:49 PM  

Ok, this would be a winner for me everytime! I would eat every day! Saving, buzzing and all there is!!! Yum, Yum!

penny aka jeroxie November 25, 2009 at 1:22 AM  

Beautiful soup. Great photos!

FOODalogue November 25, 2009 at 3:21 PM  

Looks delicious. Question: If you didn't heat it or add the fish stock, would you consider it a 'gazpacho'. Your sofrito/picada list of ingredients is similar to what I do to make gazpacho. In fact, I did one last weekend and added crabmeat and a shrimp to each serving.

Miriam November 26, 2009 at 12:45 PM  

Diana: thanks!
VM: thanks!
Brie: haha, poor thing... ahem
Belinda: thank you!
Amy: thanks!!
TasteHK: you can skip the ñoras and dish will still be very good
Noelle: thanks!
Liz: thanks!
Citronetvanille: thank you!
Thibeault: thanks for visiting!
Simone: wow, I appreciate that coming from a professional photographer...
Cheah: thanks!
Trix: thanks!
Tasty: it is comforting!
Simply: it's very tasty indeed
Chow and Chatter: thanks!
Ruth: thanks!!
Penny: thank YOu!
Joan: I wouldn't consider it a gazpacho because the amount of sofrito is really small, just to add more flavor to the fish stock.


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