Croatia

Dish

There are recipes that seem to wander all over the landscape before settling down to become associated with a specific region. Brodet is one of these. Ideally, brodet should evoke a kind of Adriatic bouillabaise -- the best of the day's catch, simmered fresh in a flavorful stock. Its long residence in the region is suggested by the fact that brodet is often served with that favorite south-central European side dish, polenta. One hint: many brodet recipes suggest that the soup should never be stirred -- this being the best way of keeping the chunks of delicate fish intact. The furthest one may go, in some versions, is to pour fish and stock gently from one pot to the next.

Ingredients

  • For the stock:
  • 1 carrot, peeled, sliced
  • 1/4 celeriac root, peeled and diced: or,
  • 2-3 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon green peppercorns, or
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 500g / 1 pound broken up fish bones, heads (gills removed) and trimmings
  • 50 ml white wine
  • Salt to taste
For the brodet:
  • 1 large onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 50 ml vegetable oil (olive oil is best)
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 heaped tablespoons tomato puree
  • 3-4 tomatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 kg / 3 lb fish, either of one kind or (much better) a mixture: gutted, cleaned, skinned, washed, cut into 1-inch or larger chunks
  • Extra salt or pepper, if needed, to taste
  • Finely chopped parsley
Brodet

Method

  1. To make the fish stock: put vegetables, herbs and peppercorns into a pan with the oil, season lightly, cover, and leave to sweat over gentle heat until soft (30 minutes or thereabouts).
  2. Add fish bones, heads, and trimmings and 400 ml water. Simmer 20 minutes only -- more and you risk the stock tasting too strongly fishy.
  3. Strain through a fine sieve: press the cooked fish and vegetables down with a wooden spoon to extract the juices.
  4. Discard the residue. Season to taste: add the white wine.
For the brodet
  1. Sweat the onion in the oil in a heavy pot until pale golden.
  2. Add the garlic: cook for a few seconds more. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato puree: add vinegar, parsley, bay leaf, the prepared fish, and enough stock to cover the fish well.
  3. Bring to the boil quickly: then turn the heat down and poach the fish, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until it begins to flake easily with a fork.
  4. The cooking liquid should then have reduced a little and become slightly thickened.
  5. Shake the pan occasionally while the fish is simmering, but do not stir, to avoid the fish breaking up. Remove from heat: check seasoning.
To serve, put a round of soft bread, garlic-rubbed bread baked or toasted crisp, polenta, or even mashed potato, into a deep plate or bowl. Ladle over some of the broth: then place portions of fish on top, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.