Water Souchet

Originally called Sootje, this dish was introduced from Holland in the time of William III. It is a very simple, refreshing dish and a fish dinner of Water Souchet followed by whitebait is unbeatable, particularly if it ends with a very good salad and cheese. Hot, thick, buttered toast is good with the Souchet.


  • 2 whole whiting, cleaned
  • 1 lb (½ kg) whiting fillets or large fresh sardines, also filleted
  • ½ tablespoon (8 g) salt
  • 12 peppercorns
  • ½ bottle white wine
  • ¾ lb (360 g) parsley, including the roots
  • 2 lemons


Put the whole fish in a large saucepan with 5 cups (1 litre) of water to which is added the salt and the peppercorns. Add the wine and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the parsley and trim the roots, keeping as much of them as possible as they add to the flavour. Chop it all finely and, reserving 1 tablespoonful for the garnish, throw the rest into the saucepan to simmer for a further 40 minutes. Pour the stock through a fine strainer, reserving all the liquid. Put any nice flakes of the whole fish back into the clear green broth.

Put the fish fillets into a shallow pan, pour a little of the broth over them, just to cover, and poach uncovered for 5 minutes.

Have ready 4 heated soup bowls. Lift the fillets and lay 2 or more in each bowl. Pour the broth in which they cooked into the saucepan with the rest of the broth. Add the juice of 1 lemon and bring to the boil. Pour through a strainer to fill up each bowl. Drop a slice of the second lemon into each bowl, add a sprinkling of parsley and serve quickly.