Quick fish and chickpea soup

I have always had a problem with fish parts; by this I mean fish which has already been sliced and filleted. Being from the Mediterranean and having been brought up on the coast, I always thought it  unthinkable to buy anything but a whole fish. With time and experience I realised that unless you are buying from a very good source, you are likely to get a fish that is just that little bit too old…

When choosing, look for shiny pure white flesh that is free of signs of dryness, greyness and browning. The fish, whether filleted or whole should have a fresh sea scent. Ask to smell it, don’t be shy! They will roll their eyes but it is after all your very own taste buds that you are safeguarding.

When I visited the fishmonger on Saturday I was looking for a white fish to cook in a light soup. He recommended hake. From the cod family but not quite as popular, hake is now slowly becoming fashionable as it not over fished and one can eat it guilt free. It is a mild white fish, with a fine flavour. It has an iron-grey skin and the flesh when raw is naturally soft, but firm and meaty when cooked. With few bones, hake is easy to prepare. It is delicious pan-fried and drizzled with butter and lemon juice. I however wanted it in a quick rustic soup with Provençale flavours.

This is what I have done:

Fish soup with chickpeas and tomatoes 

1 red onion, coarsely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 hake filets
100g cooked chickpeas
2 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
1/ 2 red pepper, chopped
1 chilli pepper finely chopped
1 pinch saffron
1/2 litre vegetable stock
Few basil leaves, chopped
1 sprig thyme
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
A dash of white wine

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves 4
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan, and sauté the onions for 4 to 5 minutes or until soft. 
  2. Add the celery and cook for a few minutes before adding garlic and chilli pepper. Cook for a further minute. 
  3. Add wine, increase the heat and reduce briskly. 
  4. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and thyme cover and leave to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.  
  5. Add ½ litre of vegetable stock and check the seasoning. 
  6. When the soup start to boil, reduce the heat to medium high and add the hake filets. 
  7. Cook for 5 minutes. 
  8. Add basil and a drizzle of  extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

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