Valentine Warner’s easy fish soup

Valentine Warner shows just how simple a good fish soup can be in the final part of his Times Kitchen video series

This is just the kind of thing I’ve often made on a boat with only the bare essentials. There are times when fish stock is called for, but remember, if there is enough fish meat to water, there is your flavoursome stock. I made this when filming, and it went down a storm after we nearly went down in a storm.

Serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium leek, thinly sliced into 5mm rounds
1 medium bulb of fennel, halved and medium diced (taking off the outer layer is often unnecessary; remove it only if stringy)2 fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
6 black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 cloves of good garlic, very finely sliced
200ml dry white wine
1.2 litres water
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
400g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and diced a little smaller than mouthful size
500g sea bass, bream, gurnard, cod, or a mixture, filleted, skinned and cut into large pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
good crusty bread, to serve

For the garlic mayonnaise
8 tablespoons shop-bought mayonnaise, such as Hellmann’s
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 free-range egg yolk
2 tablespoons good olive oil
a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice
3 cloves of good hard garlic, chopped and smushed with a little
flaked sea salt


1. Pour the olive oil into a large pan or soup pot, then put it over a medium heat and sweat the leek with the fennel, bay leaves, fennel seeds, peppercorns and rosemary for 10 minutes or so, stirring often, until nearly tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.

2. Add the wine and bring to the boil for 3 minutes or so before adding the water, sea salt and potatoes. Bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are only a fraction less than ready (try one).

3. While the potatoes are cooking, make the garlic mayonnaise. Put the mayonnaise, mustard and egg yolk into a bowl and mix together. Beat in the olive oil with a fork and drip in a little lemon juice to give it an edge. Stir in the garlic and put to one side. If you want to make the mayonnaise from scratch, then do so, but food cooked on windy beaches or in boats calls for a clever cheat now and then.

4. Drop the fish into the soup and jostle it under the water by shaking the pan a bit. Once it is simmering again I would propose cooking it for a mere 2–4 minutes, so that the fish is only just done. Add the parsley to the soup.

5. Ladle into bowls and stir in a large spoonful of the garlic mayonnaise.

6. Eat with good crusty bread.

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