Fish Soup

7 April, 2010


Time: Don’t hurry. Don’t rush to heat ingredients quickly. This soup welcomes the concept of gentle simmering.

JayFishSoupEquipment:  A tureen. Not a big saucepan. A tureen. Capiche? Plus a good frying pan. And gas. Gas electric if possible.

Accompany with: Crusty heated rustic bread for dipping and mopping up. Not not garlic bread – this will overpower the soup’s flavours.

Serve with: A cold crisp white or at a push a rose; not beer but cider or perry. Alternatively elderflower or light compresses but not fruit juice.


Any fool can make soup. The most important thing with this soup is to get the atmosphere right. This is not a quick and simple soup. This is a rich and sincere soup that needs  contemplation and consideration. It can’t take more than 90 minutes to make, eat some  and clear up.

Right : first take 4-6 large potatoes and cut them into half inch cubes and put to one side. Now cut up four white onions into small pieces and fry until soft – butter is best for this – and put to one side.

Next fry half a pound of good quality fatty lardons until crisp – if you can’t get hold of these just use a good quality rindless bacon cut up small. Once the lardons are cooked add the onions and stir for a minute. Put to one side where your potatoes also wait.

Make up 2-3 pints of fish stock : you can do this for real but most of our lives are too short and so fish stock cubes will do just fine. Don’t fuss about exactly how much you need – make enough to have plenty – you can always throw it away if you have too much stock – it costs almost nothing and this is cooking not chemistry anyway.

Put a couple of pints of your stock into the tureen. Add the potatoes and bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Add the bacon and onions and simmer until all is well.

Next add a pound of smoked haddock or similar smoked fish – doesn’t really matter what kind but the smoked nature adds depth to the flavour; at the same time add an equivalent amount of any white fish you like or can get hold of – cod is my choice. The white and smoked fish need only to be roughly cubed into bit-sized pieces.

Keep the pot simmering until the fish is cooked – soft but not flaking. Add fish stock as necessary to keep it a soup not a stew and season now with salt and pepper to taste. Finally add large peeled fresh prawns and fresh scallops. They’ll only need a very few minutes in the mixture to cook – don’t overcook or they’ll go like leather.

Now the only vaguely tricky bit – add half to a pint of fresh cream as your taste dictates but keep the heat low and do not boil or do any more than simmer at a very low level or you’ll curdle the shit out of it. Once you have stirred and balanced it all out, add some paprika to taste and stir in.

Keep warm – do not let it cool before serving – and add fresh chopped parsley as a garnish if you’ve got guests you want to impress. Eat with big spoons in big bowls with hot bread.


Jay Green used to make this fish soup a lot between 1993 and 2004 when he lived in West London. He first made it in at 81 The Grove, Ealing and then afterwards refined it at 7 Sutton Court, Chiswick. The seafood was sourced locally at fishmongers on Turnham Green Road and the lardons at an Italian deli on the Chiswick High Road. He used to make it for eating while crucial football games were being televised that involved Manchester United. This is why the soup is dedicated to Eric Cantona.