Greek Fish Soup with Orange and Fennel

This is a big-flavoured, garlicky fish soup. It is worth taking a few minutes to check over the fish, making sure that the fishmonger has scrupulously scraped away all the scales. I used large-boned fish for this - grey mullet, red mullet and a hunk of monkfish. The fish should be cleaned but left on the bone, so you can slice it into large chunks (little pieces will collapse into the soup.) It takes an hour from start to finish, and offers both a bowl of clear, sweet soup and a plate of lightly cooked fish to follow.


  • 2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium leek, cleaned and cut into thin rings
  • Olive oil
  • 1kg mixed fish, cleaned and gutted but left on the bone
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, diced
  • A little Pernod
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried chilli
  • 1 level teaspoon saffron threads
  • 500g tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • A strip of orange zest
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 500ml water
  • A handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped
  • To serve
  • Rouille or garlic mayonnaise
  • Slices of fried French bread


  1. Cook the onions, garlic and leeks slowly over a moderate heat in a little olive oil, stirring from time to time. After 10 or 15 minutes they will have softened but they should not colour.
  2. Cut the fish into thick pieces, chopping right through the bone. Rinse thoroughly, and set aside.
  3. Stir the carrots, celery and fennel into the onions and leeks and continue cooking until they start to soften. Add a splash of Pernod. Don't be tempted by over-generosity. One good glug from the bottle will do. Add the chilli and saffron, stir and leave for a minute, then add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 10 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally. This slow cooking will give plenty of juice.
  4. Stir in the orange zest, orange juice and water and bring to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer for a further 20 minutes, covered with a lid, before introducing the fish. Once the fish is tender enough to fall from the bone - mine took about 12 minutes - add the parsley (this is not purely for garnish).
  5. Serve the orange-coloured broth first, with toasted French bread and garlic mayonnaise to float, followed by a plate of the chunks of fish and vegetables, moistened by a spoonful of the broth. Use the soup bowls for the fish bones.

Serves: Serves 4 as a main dish

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This recipe was first published in Mon Mar 01 00:00:00 GMT 1999.