Scorpionfish Soup

Kirlangiç Çorbasi

When I was growing up, this delicacy made with the ugliest fish I’d ever seen was a speciality of my father. He is a devoted sailor and amateur fisherman, and we spent our summers in the seaside village of Bayramoğlu, an hour from Istanbul. He’d go out on the water all day in his small boat, and come back with a catch that always included scorpionfish. They are bony and hard to clean, so there’s no point trying to turn them into fillets. Best to cook them before you remove the flesh.

Like many Turkish soups, this is enriched at the end with a terbiye —a word that translates as ‘teaching good manners’. The basic ingredients of a terbiye are egg and lemon, sometimes with yoğurt or flour added. Old-school chefs would call this ‘binding’ the soup, but we prefer to say we’re polishing it to perfection.

Ingredients

  • 1 scorpionfish, about 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) (or any rockfish)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 potato
  • 1 carrot
  • ¼ celeriac
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ½ bunch dill
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry white wine
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Clean the fish, removing the guts and gills. Place on a board and chop into three pieces.

Put 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) of salted water in a saucepan. Add the fish, whole peeled garlic clove and onion, and bring to the boil over high heat. Continue to boil for 20 minutes, uncovered. Turn off the heat, remove the fish from the pan and rest for 20 minutes. Remove the flesh from the bones and set the flesh aside. Return the bones and head to the pan, bring back to the boil and then boil over high heat for 15 minutes.

Peel the potato, carrot and celeriac and roughly chop. Remove the leaves from the celery and set aside. Chop the celery stalk.

Strain the hot fish liquid into another pot and discard the bones, garlic and onion. Add the vegetables and bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Pick and chop the celery, dill and parsley, add to the original pan with the fish and mix together. Add the wine and boil vigorously for 2 minutes to let the alcohol evaporate. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the soup and bring to the boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes.

Put 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the soup in a bowl with the egg yolk and whisk to combine. Return the soup to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Divide the fish into four bowls. Pour a ladle of the soup over each lump of fish. Drizzle a little lemony oil over each bowl and serve.