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Fish soup with pepper polenta

About this recipe: Good stock provides the flavour base for this delicate broth. If you are not making your own low-salt stock, try a high-quality commercial stock sold chilled, rather than a stock cube, but still keep added salt to the minimum. The polenta accompaniment is prepared in advance, so the soup is simple to cook at the last minute.

Azmina Govindji

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • 900 ml (1½ pints) fish stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of parsley
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb of fennel, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
  • zest of 1 lemon, finely shredded or coarsely grated
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chilli, halved and seeded (optional)
  • 225 g (8 oz) monkfish fillet, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 225 g (8 oz) skinless white fish fillet, such as cod or haddock, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • leaves from the fennel bulb, herb fennel or fresh dill to garnish
  • Pepper polenta sticks
  • 2 red peppers, halved lengthways and seeded
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 200 g (7 oz) instant polenta
  • 45 g (1½ oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Method
Prep:55min  ›  Cook:50min  ›  Ready in:1hr45min 

  1. Prepare the polenta sticks in advance. Preheat the grill to high. Place the pepper halves on the grill rack, cut sides down, and grill for 10 minutes or until the skin is charred all over. To make them easy to peel, transfer them to a polythene bag and leave to stand for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel the peppers and cut lengthways into 5 mm (¼ in) wide strips. Set aside.
  2. Cook the polenta with the salt according to the instructions on the packet. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until it is thick.
  3. Sprinkle a plastic chopping board or tray with water and turn the polenta out onto it. Use a wet palette knife to spread out the polenta into a rectangle about 1 cm (½ in) thick. Arrange the strips of pepper diagonally on top, gently pressing them into the polenta. Wet a sharp knife and use this to trim and neaten the edges of the polenta rectangle. Leave to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF, gas mark 6) and grease a baking tray. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the polenta and cut it into 16 sticks. Transfer the polenta sticks to the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Leave to cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  5. For the soup, pour the stock into a saucepan. Tie the bay leaf, parsley and thyme together into a bouquet garni and add to the pan with celery, fennel, carrots, lemon zest, shallot, garlic and chilli, if using. Heat gently until boiling, then leave to simmer for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly tender. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Leave to stand for 10–20 minutes so the flavours can infuse the liquid.
  6. Remove and discard the bouquet garni and chilli halves. Bring the liquid back to the boil. Reduce the heat, add the monkfish and white fish, and poach for about 4 minutes or until all the fish chunks are opaque and will flake easily. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Transfer the polenta sticks to a serving plate. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle with the fennel leaves or dill. Serve at once.

Another idea

For mushroom polenta, cook 170 g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms with 1 crushed garlic clove and 1 tbsp chopped shallot in 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add 1 tbsp snipped fresh chives and spread over the polenta sticks. Sprinkle 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the mushrooms and brown under the grill instead of baking.

Plus points

Celery and fennel provide potassium. Celery also acts as a diuretic, helping to reduce fluid and salt retention. * Like other white fish, cod, haddock and monkfish are very low in fat and calories.

Each serving provides

Excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C. Good source of folate, potassium, vitamin B12. Useful source of selenium, vitamin B1.

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