Livorno-style fish soup

Ingredients to serve 8

 

175ml olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 sprig fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small fresh chilli, de-seeded and chopped
500ml red or white wine
300g tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
2.5kg mixed fish (see method), cleaned and cut into chunks if necessary
Fish stock, optional
500g mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
Salt and pepper
Toast rubbed with garlic, to serve

We have fishermen to thank for fish soups, which were originally created to avoid wasting unsold fish from the day's catch. They simply put everything into a large pot, cooked it and then ate it.

To begin with, the poorest and least prized fish were the ones used, but this simple dish gradually developed and improved over the years. Today we have both simple soups and sophisticated stews that often include fine fish, crustaceans and shellfish.

Around Italy's 7,000 km of coastline, there are as many kinds of fish soup as there are regions bordering the sea – and they all have different names, such as brodetto, buridda, ciuppin and this one, cacciucco, from Livorno.

For this typical Tyrrhenian-coast fish soup, you need a few slices of monkfish, a conger or freshwater eel, a few squid or cuttlefish and some mussels.

Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole, add the onion, parsley, garlic and chilli, season with salt and pepper and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the onion is golden brown.

Add the wine and cook for 10 minutes more, then add the tomatoes and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the firmer fish, pour in a little warm water or fish stock, and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes. Gradually add the more delicate fish, finishing with the mussels. (Discard any with broken shells or that do not shut immediately when sharply tapped, and any that remain closed after cooking.) The total cooking time for the fish is about 30 minutes.

Serve with slices of toast rubbed with garlic.

Taken from 'The Silver Spoon' New Edition (Phaidon Press, £29.95).

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