I love this soup!
Saffron is such an interesting ingredient. I wish I was one of those people who can take a sip of wine and come up with 'mossy' or 'muscular' right off the bat, but I'm not. The flavor and aroma of saffron is wonderful, but ineffable, and I'm at a loss to describe it. It's officially said to have a slightly bitter, 'hay-like' flavor, which doesn't really do it justice, but I can't give you an alternative. It's one of those times where words aren't relevant. I love that.
It's no secret that I love fish, and chowders and soups are some of my favorite ways to enjoy it. This recipe is a version of a classic Scandinavian soup. It has a base of wine, stock and cream and a generous amount of saffron to give it a distinctive flavor as well as color. I accented mine with dill.
I came across baby parsnips at the market yesterday, so they went into the soup, along with leeks, onion, and fennel. The pale vegetables provide flavor, texture, and a neutral base for the color of the saffron to shine through.
This soup isn't thick and heavy like a chowder. The flavors of the wine, saffron, lemon, dill and fish come together to make an unusual and fabulous broth. The cream gives it substance. It's the perfect late summer early fall dish.
Halibut and Saffron Soup ~~~adapted from Island Menu
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 bunch baby parsnips, peeled and sliced
- Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed pot and saute the vegetables for about 15 minutes until they start to soften.
2 cups water
2 cups stock (fish is best, I used chicken)
2 bay leaves
2 big pinches saffron
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white pepper
- Add the wine to the vegetables, then the water, stock, bay leaves and saffron. Crush the saffron between your fingers as you add it. Season with salt and pepper and bring up to a simmer. Cook gently for about 15 minutes,
2 tsp tomato paste (I keep a tube in the fridge)
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 lb halibut fillet, cut in bite sized chunks
1/3 cup fresh dill leaves
- Add the cream and lemon juice, and bring back to a boil. Check the seasoning, and then add the halibut and dill. Cover the pan and turn off the heat. The fish will gently poach in the heat of the soup. Let sit for about 15 minutes.
- At this point you can serve the soup, or, better yet, let it cool and refrigerate it for a few hours to give the flavors a chance to develop, then reheat gently before serving. Be sure to taste it to adjust the seasonings, and throw on some fresh dill sprigs at the last minute.
I highly recommend this soup, and I'm definitely going to do more experimenting with fish and saffron. Salmon would work here as well, and you can vary the vegetables. This is a winner in my book, I hope you try it.