Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RECIPE - Fish Soup from Ceará (Sopa de Peixe Cearense)

A jangada at sea
There's something deeply satisfying about an uncomplicated, non-tarted-up, rich fish soup. Aromatic, packed with the flavors of the sea, and elemental, it appeals to our most basic appetites. Almost every culture that lives from the sea has just such a soup - Mediterranean France's soupe aux poisson, Norwegian fiskesuppe, Thai bo taek and many more are all variations on a universal theme.

The fishermen of Brazil's north and north-eastern coasts, called jangadeiros from the name of the simple rafts they sail on (jangadas), have been making just such a soup for centuries. They make it, amazingly, at sea while on board their jangadas, and they make it when they return home. The same soup is also made in portside restaurants, located in the market where the jangadeiros sell their catch within hours of landing. And its made in Brazilians homes and apartments to anchor a family meal.

What gives this soup is Brazilian twist is the presence of coconut milk and the combination of chopped green onions and cilantro called cheiro verde (green aroma). The recipe calls for Brazilian-style fish stock, which can be made by following the instructions in the previous post on Flavors of Brazil. Even allowing for time to make the stock, this soup is quick and easy to prepare and is sure to appeal to anyone who loves fish and seafood.
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RECIPE - Fish Soup from Ceará (Sopa de Peixe Cearense)
Serves 4

1/2 lb (250 gr)  boneless fish fillets from any white fish variety (halibut, cod, snapper, sole, etc)
4 cups (1 liter) Brazilian fish stock
1 medium boiling potato, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp cilanto, finely chopped
4 Tbsp green onion, green part only, finely chopped
1/3 cup (100 ml) coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
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In a large saucepan combine the fish, the fish stock, the potato, onion, cilantro and green onion. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook at a low boil until the fish and potatoes are very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using a wooden spoon, mash the fish and potato cubes against the side of the saucepan until you have a rough puree. Do not over-mash, there should be some consistency to the soup. Season for salt and pepper.

Return to the heat and bring just to a boil. Remove heat, stir in the coconut milk and divide among four deep soup plates. Sprinkle additional chopped cilantro over to garnish if desired. Serve with thick slices of peasant bread.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.

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