Fiskesuppe is one of the most iconic dishes in Norwegian coastal cuisine, and this is my take on the Norwegian classic fish soup. It’s quick and easy to make, and so delicious I just had it for my birthday!
Norwegian fish soup comes in many regional variations. And within each region, each cook probably has their own sub variety; this certainly isn’t how my dad makes it.
My dad would simmer thick steak cuts of fish in water, then use the liquid as base for the soup. The soup would be served first, like a starter, and then the fish with potatoes, vegetables and remaining soup as a sauce for main course, as it were.
I have used the Northeast Arctic cod called Skrei in this recipe, and though this dish is very versatile in terms of what fish you could use, do not under any circumstance use salmon for the stock, as it will taste horrendous. Use white fish, such as cod, haddock, ocean perch, or even flat fish like halibut – they all give you an amazing stock and flavorful balls.
For the fish stock
- Bones from 1 cod (or whatever fish you use for the balls)
- 1 carrot, cut into chunks
- 2 celery sticks (or 1/2 small celeriac) cut into chunks
- 1 small leek, white part only, cut into chunks
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 liters water
For the fish balls
- 700 g white fish
- 100 ml cream
- 1 egg
- 1/4 grated nutmeg
- Fine sea salt
For the soup
- The fish stock
- 500 ml whole milk
- Fine sea salt
- 100 g flour
- 100 g real butter
- Some vinegar (details below)
- 2 tbsp sour cream (optional)
- 2 large carrots
- 1/2 celeriac (or 2 parsley root)
- 1 small leek
Start by making the fish stock. Rinse off blood on the fish carcass along the spine and swim bladder, remove the gills if using the head, then simply toss all the ingredients into a large pot, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for 30 minutes, and no more than that, cause you’ll start drawing out off flavors. So set a timer on, and go do your taxes or some other life-affirming activity of your choice for the next 30 minutes.
When the time is up, strain through a fine sieve, or a colander with a muslin cloth. Further clarification of the stock is not necessary. Pour back into your stock pot and keep the stock right under a simmer (or freeze to save for later).
Cut the fish meat into chunks, add to then use a stick blender to blend the meat into a smooth farce. Or you could use an upright blender and to it in batches, or finely hand chop or run through a meat grinder. Whatever tool is available to you, you’ll get the job done.
Next mix in salt and stir until it starts to bind, then mix in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Plop a teaspoon of your farce into the fish stock and poach for a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with fine sea salt and/or nutmeg. You are after very subtle, delicate flavors here, so don’t overdo it!
When you’re happy with the seasoning, shape the farce into balls/quenelles using two tablespoons. Or wet your hands and shape into even ping pong sized balls. Slip them into the stock as you make them, and let them poach for about 5 minutes.
At this point you could let everything cool down in the pot, and set in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for months.
Using a slotted spoon, lift out the balls, and into a lidded container to keep warm. Add the milk and cream to the stock and simmer down to approximately 2 liters. Melt the butter in a pot, and add the flour. Whisk in the warm stock to make a lump free, not too thick soup. Simmer for 10 minutes, and adjust thickness with milk as needed. Season with fine sea salt to taste.
Seasoning with acid
You absolutely need to add some sort of acid to this dish. I usually layer several kinds of acid for a perfect balance, and I typically use a few good tablespoons full fat sour cream and white balsamic vinegar (for the love of the Gods not regular balsamic here!!), but apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar is also very nice. A small splash goes a long way, so splash, stir, and taste until you hit the sweet spot.
While the soup is simmering happily away, cut the vegetables into very thin strips (julienned or grated), toss into well salted, boiling water. The second the water comes to a boil once more, strain the veg through a colander and set aside.
Place 5-6 fish balls into each serving bowl. Consider aerating the soup with a stick blender, then ladle the soup over the fish balls. Place a mound of blanched root veg in the middle of the bowl. Sprinkle finely chopped herbs over, or fancy the shit out of this dish with a drizzle of pre-made herb oil. Herbs to use are either parsley, chives, or chervil, whatever’s available to you.