Kakavia (Cretan fisherman’s soup)
- June 2017
- Serves 6
- Hands-on time 25 min, simmering time 30 min
You don’t have to eat the fish head in Marianna Leivaditaki’s traditional Cretan stew, but cooking it with potatoes, herbs and tomatoes adds fantastic flavour to the silky broth.
If you love seafood, then this Cioppino fish stew ticks all the boxes.
- 53.3g (7.6g saturated)
- 15.6g (5.9g sugars)
- 400g cyprus potatoes, cut into 3cm chunks
- 150g fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped, fronds reserved
- 250g carrots, finely chopped
- 200g celery, finely sliced
- 200g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1kg hake steaks on the bone, plus a hake head – about 400g
- 1 tbsp roughly ground fennel seeds
- 400ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 200ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus wedges to serve
- Small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped, to serve
- Barley rusks or sourdough bread to serve
- Put the potatoes in a large pan with a lid (they should fit snugly in a single layer). Top with the fennel, carrots, celery and tomatoes. Add the fish head and the fennel seeds and a little salt. Pour in the olive oil and 1 litre water, then put over a high heat.
- Bring the soup to the boil, cover with a lid, then cook over a high heat for 25-30 minutes, shaking the pan regularly to prevent sticking.
- Remove the fish head with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the hake steaks to the pan with the lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Taste and season. Let the soup sit before serving – it’s not supposed to be eaten piping hot. Use a fork to flake the hake off the bone. Scatter with the parsley and reserved fennel fronds, then serve with lemon wedges and rusks or crusty bread.
If you can’t find cyprus potatoes go for a waxy variety such as charlotte or new potatoes. Large fish heads (often given away by fishmongers) have good quality meat on them. It’s worth picking out the cheek meat and other morsels before discarding.
“Making kakavia is easy as long as you use very fresh bony fish and excellent olive oil – there’s a lot of oil in the dish, which is as it should be. You also need a good hob – preferably gas, with a strong flame. Gurnard, hake or halibut all make great soup. It’s important to include the head of the fish even if you don’t fancy eating it, as the gelatine it releases mixes with the oil to make a silky broth.”
Barley rusks are a Cretan speciality – double baked until dry so they last better in the heat than fresh bread. Find them in Hellenic grocers or at amazon.co.uk.
A lemony Greek wine (they’re in supermarkets now) or crisp Provence rosé.
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