When I make fish stock in class, usually half of the class is grossed out- especially about the fish heads. The other half are transported to the kitchens of their grannies or moms who lovingly made them fish broth soups when they were feeling under the weather as kids. By the end of class (with happy mouthfuls of salmon chowder) all of the students are lovers of this rich and delicious stock.
Many cultures value fish broth for its calcium and high mineral content, as well as for the iodine- nourishing the thyroid. Fish heads also contain the thyroid gland of the fish- for additional gland therapy.
For this recipe, you need fish and bones. When you buy fresh fish, you are entitled to the bones and the head too. Most fish shops don’t even ask you anymore if you want it because the craft of making our own stocks is being lost! I get my bones and fish at The Daily Catch and The Fish Counter here in Vancouver. They only carry OceanWise sustainably caught fish and seafood, so it makes my shopping easier.
Ask the fish purveyor for the head and the bones. For a nourishing and more frugal version of this soup, omit the chunks of salmon and just use the stock- bulking it up with more veggies like grilled corn and kale.
Fish stock is a great base for Asian style soups. Any fish chowder or seafood soup benefits from fish stock. You can even use this stock to poach fish, creating an even more flavourful stock to later use for soup. Consider using fish stock to cook the rice that you are to accompany with fish at the meal.
about 2 lbs bones ( and heads are good too). Any fish bones will do!
1 leek (cleaned well), optional
3 stocks celery
1 bulb fennel(opt)
1 bulb garlic, cut in half width-wise
a couple inch piece of kombu seaweed
thyme, bay leaf and black peppercorns and/or the stems or sprigs of dill
- Chop up all of the veggies medium dice.
- Put veggies in the pot with fish bones, kombu, spices and lemon
- Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer on medium for about 30 minutes. Skim any scum that comes to the top.
- Let liquid cool, then put into freezable 1 liter container and label with the date.
See, that was easy! You can cool and refrigerate the stock for up to 3 days or freeze to use for later.
When you are ready to make the soup…
Sunflower oil, ghee or your favourite mellow cooking oil for sautéing
2 large starchy (russet or table) potatoes, peeled and chopped (or try sweet potatoes).
1 onion, medium dice (or try using the white part of a leek)
2 sprigs thyme, chopped
1 head Garlic, roasted
Stock (ideally salmon stock, but chicken or other fish stocks are good too.) to just cover. Start with 1 ½ litres and add more if needed after blending.
1 4-6 oz portion of salmon, skinned and cut up into 1” chunks (optional but delicious)
Optional cream- about ½ cup or sub 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- Cook potatoes and onion in oil until onions are translucent and smell divine
- Cook until potatoes can be pierced by a knife. Add roasted garlic
- Add stock or water and bring to a simmer
- When potatoes are totally cooked, add your salmon, stir and cook for another 3 minutes, until the salmon turns flaky
- Add optional cream
- Season the soup with salt and lemon
- Partialy blend soup with a soup wand or blend half of it in a blender. Chowder should be chunky, but pureeing part of it makes it feel creamier
- Heat some soup up, taste again for seasoning and garnish with cilantro, chives, dill or parsley