Greek fisherman’s soup (known in Greece as Kakavia | κακαβιά) is a delight. It truly is a mouthwatering dish to make which will show off the flavours of whichever fish you choose to throw in. Why? I think the main reason this soup pops in flavour without much work is because you get to use the natural saltiness from the fish, plus, by using a variety, you get a small taste of each of their unique flavour qualities. Greek fisherman’s soup has a base of only water because extra stock in not necessarily needed to make the dish taste yummy. Of course, you can add vegetable stock and different herbs if you would like as this never hurts.
Greek Fisherman’s soup
Greek fisherman’s soup or stew, depending on how thick you make the broth, is something that derived from Greek fishermen who were out at sea and would use the ‘catch of the day’ for their dinner that night. Whatever haul they brought home is what they used. Additionally, they used whatever was leftover that they didn’t sell. Why this works so well in our homes today is because you can use whatever fish or shellfish you have on hand and you will be recreating the same concept that the fishermen used. For example, we used mahi-mahi which can be a bit pricier but we happened to find it on sale. We also used cod and shrimp. It made for the perfect mix of meaty fish and shellfish. You can use mussels, tilapia, swordfish, etc. Lobster is another amazing addition if you can buy it easily or for a good deal. Too many choices so little time.
The fishermen normally wash the fish and shellfish in seawater and then they actually use clean seawater to cook the soup. Begin by washing and preparing the fish and shellfish. In a large cooking pot lay the potatoes and onions, then a pinch of saffron and the bay leaves and, on top, the fish, shellfish and tomatoes. Pour enough water to almost cover the fish. Boil for about 20 minutes and then add salt, pepper and the olive oil. Simmer for another 10 minutes and, when ready, add the lemon juice.
If you wish to make it a bit more sophisticated and avoid bones in the soup, first boil the fish and shellfish in salted water with bay leaves, in a separate pot. When the fish is done (about 10-15 minutes) strain them and discard the bones, reserving the water in which they boiled. In that water, add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the potatoes soften.
In the meantime, clean the fish from bones, and add their meat in chunks into the soup. Add lemon juice and serve with chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.
This is a hearty, traditional dish that expresses all the scents of the sea. At the same time it’s savoury, fatty and it’s beautifully perfumed from natural aromatics from the Greek countryside such as bay, saffron and parsley.
Speaking of so little time, truth is, this is a super quick meal. You are not going to have to spend all day figuring out how to fill your family up with a hearty and healthy dinner. Give yourself 30 minutes and you are well on your way to having a full tummy.
I was always a bit sceptical about making a soup that had nothing but fish in it. Growing up, soups like clam chowder were my least favourite. I think that is why, as an adult, I was always unsure about making a bouillabaisse or Greek fisherman’s soup recipe. I am so afraid it will be too fishy. But I know now that these thoughts are stuck in my head and not based in reality. It’s like when you hated eating peas or some other thing as a child but when you grow up, you end up loving it. This is my relationship with fish soups. This soup was so incredibly delicious and I urge anyone with a childhood fear to step out of their comfort zone and try to get creative in the kitchen. Turn those childhood food fears into meal adventures in your own home.
Not that it matters because I would have loved it anyway, but this soup didn’t taste super fishy as it happens. So it all worked out in the end. I added a bit of Greek yoghurt and red pepper flakes to my bowl just to give it some cream and spice. Kenton chose to opt-out of these ingredients. Just shows you how versatile this dish can really be.