This is a combination of various kinds of fish blended into a creamy soup with vegetables, a hint of garlic and wine. It makes a wonderfully satisfying soup, with a layer of coarse toasted bread lining each plate. If you like, you can allow it to cool and thicken, then use it as a sauce to dress pasta. It is a very traditional recipe from Liguria and an excellent way of using cheap fish that you might not bother buying for anything else.
Gut and clean the fish, then divide it into groups according to how long each type of fish will take to cook. (The fleshier the fish, the longer it will take.)
In a large deep pan, fry the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and parsley in the olive oil for about 6 minutes over a very low heat so that the onion does not brown. Then pour in the wine, stir and raise the heat. Stir until you can no longer smell wine, then lower the heat.
Add the tomatoes and the chilli (if using). Stir and simmer for 2–3 minutes, then add the water, season, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the fish, starting with the kinds that take longest to cook. Check the seasoning and cover.
Simmer for about 10 minutes - the fish should be just starting to fall apart. To test if it is done, insert a knife into the centre: the flesh should flake. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Remove the chilli, if using, and discard. Push all the fish and the liquid through a sieve or mouli, reducing everything to a smooth purée. (For a thicker consistency, do not sieve all the liquid but leave some in the pan.) Discard what is left in the sieve, return the smooth soup to the pan and bring to a slow boil. Toast the bread and lay one or two slices in the bottom of each of 6 warmed soup plates.
Pour the soup on top of the bread and serve.
© 1990 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.