Tunisian Fish Soup

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IMG_0217Rainy days are very much my kind day! I am a compulsive and very fastidious tea addict, if time permits I love to read, in short the perfect formula for rain. My only peeve with the weather this weekend is that spring rain is supposed to be warmer, essentially the kind of weather that you can walk around in (without your winter coat, that is).  That not happening, the best thing to do in weather like this is to enjoy slow and fragrant flavors.

This soup comes my way from the kitchen of my friend Sarah, whose family is from Tunisia. There are some similarities in the spices being used in North African cuisine and of course the Indian kitchen.

I have played around with the essential flavors to add leeks and the red wine to the recipe. The result is well worth, the time that this dish takes. It actually made me pause in the middle of an errand filled Saturday (read, very typical Saturday), to stop and enjoy this very flavorful and satisfying soup. It is fairly spicy and is surprisingly satisfying. I have used cod for this recipe. Again, if we are looking for fish options a cod makes for a perfect inexpensive option. It is also readily available in its wild caught form in this part of the country.  I have made this recipe several times, with various types of medium-bodied red wine, merlots and Ciantis are safe bets.

Tunisian Fish Soup

Spices and Seasons – Tunisian Fish Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

This is a hearty, spicy full bodied morning that perfect for these rainy cool days. The key is to use a rich and fruity olive oil and your favorite medium bodied red wine. Cooking the meal will take about an hour, mostly unattended however this meal is great for a crowd.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin oil
  • 2 medium sized leeks, thinly sized (whites and green parts only)
  • 1 medium sized red onion, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon (about 6 cloves) of finely chopped garlic
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 large stick cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons roughly ground cumin
  • 3 medium sized potatoes (I used Yukon gold)
  • 4 cups water
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • Juice of a lemon or lime (2 tablespoons)
  • ¾ tablespoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus extra to finish
  • Additional freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds firm white fish (like cod or halibut, cubed)
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil and add in the leeks and cook the leeks low and slow for about 10 minutes, at this point the leeks would be soft and fairly wilted. Add in the red onions and cook stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
  2. Gently, add in the wine a tablespoon about time until about ½ the wine is used. The mixture should have a soft jam like texture and the oil should be released on the sides.
  3. Add in the garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon and cumin and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the potatoes, water and the salt and the remaining wine. Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the mint, paprika, freshly ground pepper and the fish with additional water if needed. The soup should be thinner than a stew and simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes.Turn off the heat, check for seasonings and stir in the cilantro, garnish with additional crushed red pepper (if desired) and serve.
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About Author

Rinku Bhattacharya, the Spices & Seasons blogger, is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Spice Chronicles (formerly,Cooking in Westchester), where she shares her life experiences, original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years. Rinku is also the author of the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles an award winning (Gourmand 2013) cookbook, that highlights and offers many simple Indian recipes off the beaten path. Her second cookbook, Spices and Seasons, uses the approach in this column and marries Indian flavors with local and seasonal produce. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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