This has been a very recurring staple in our household lately, one of my very favourite recipes for both dinner parties and just us at home. It’s really fast and easy and cheap and healthy for weeknight dinners, but also good enough that it’s been our dinner party go-to recipe lately too. It’s easy to glam it up a bit and serve with crusty sourdough to make it special.
It’s becoming harder and harder to catch, or buy, sustainable seafood these days. Luckily, squid is normally listed as sustainable in most guides. Squid breed fast and die young and their natural predators are being fished out. Squid are a really healthy seafood, a good source of omega 3 and, like many seafood, of a big range of minerals like copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium. And it’s cheap. My local supermarket has 500 gm packs of frozen, cleaned squid rings for $6.
The other main ingredient in this soup is Southern Blue Whiting, also listed as sustainable and also available frozen and very cheap. Fresh sand whiting is so gorgeous, it would be criminal to do anything more to it than dust with flour and fry. Southern Blue Whiting, though, isn’t sand whiting, isn’t even really a whiting, and especially if it is frozen, it isn’t a good frying fish. So it is quite nice to find a way to turn it into something gourmet.
It’s a bit of a “make it up as you go” recipe because lots of substitutions are possible. I tend to make a big pot even just for the two of us, and we take it for lunch or eat it for a few days in a row.
Step One: The Sofrito.
- In a big soup pot, add a swig of olive oil and saute a chopped onion and several cloves of garlic till they start to soften.
- Add a couple of chilis finely diced, more or less depending on how hot your chilis are and how spicy you like things.
- Add a good cupful of chopped tomatoes.
Step Two: The Vegetables
Add three or four cupfuls of roughly chopped vegetables. You want
- at least one starchy vegetable like potato, sweet potato, or shelled beans
- at least one leafy green like silver beet or amaranth or baby spinach, but steer clear of strong cabbage flavours.
- a few of vegetables like capsicum, green beans, snow peas, celery, carrots, zucchini, squash. Again, steer clear of broccoli or things in that family.
Saute a little bit, then add water to cover.
Step Three: The Aromatics
When you add the water, add kaffir lime leaves. I like four or five of them, but adjust according to your taste. Leave them whole and remove (if you can!) before serving, or just warn people to leave them. If you don’t have kaffir lime leaves, just double up on the lemon or lime at the end.
Simmer the soup for fifteen minutes or so.
Then add another good half cup of chopped herbs. I like lemon or lime basil and Vietnamese mint best, but you could swerve towards cilantro or coriander, or Thai basil, or towards dill or even fennel.
Step Four: The Fish and Fish Sauce
Add 500 grams of squid rings and (optionally) whatever you want in other seafood. For everyday eating, I add about 300 grams of chopped whiting, skin off. To glam it up you can also add baby prawns or clams. You can even add them frozen if you like.
Bring back to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the fish is cooked through.
Now taste and add fish sauce and lemon or lime juice to taste. You can add quite a lot without it being too much.
Serve with a good sourdough.