Here’s a an exotic and delicious fish dish to warm the winter cockles from Zuza Zak’s fabulous new book Amber & Rye – A Baltic Food Journey (Murdoch Books). The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians know a thing or two about cold weather foods and this yummy fish-dumpling combination is a great one for the nippy months ahead.
I can’t recommend this soup highly enough. An amalgamation of an Estonian fish soup and an old Polish-Lithuanian soup, its dumplings take on the delicate flavour of the stock and practically melt in your mouth.
If you want to make your own fish stock, grab some reasonably priced, locally sourced fish from your fishmonger and follow the instructions on page 84 – except there’s no need to bother with chopping and frying the onion, you can just add it whole and unpeeled to the pan. Cook the fish in the stock for about 40 minutes before mashing and straining the liquid. You can either discard the strained-out fish or give it to the cat!
1 tablespoon butter
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
4–5 allspice berries
2.5 litres (10 cups) good-quality fish stock
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) firm fish fillets, such as salmon or halibut, cut into large chunks
200 g (¾ cup) crème fraiche
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and white pepper
Finely chopped dill, to serve
For the dumplings
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter, melted and left to cool slightly
50 ml (2½ tablespoons) whole milk
50 g (2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
First make the batter for the dumplings. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, butter, milk and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Now gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Mix in the parsley, then cover and refrigerate while you make the soup.
In a large saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter and fry the carrot, leek and celery for 4–5 minutes or until starting to soften. Season with salt and pepper, add the bay leaf and allspice berries and cover with 2 litres (8 cups) of fish stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add the fish to the soup and cook for about 12 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through.
Meanwhile, cook the dumplings. Pour the remaining 500 ml (2 cups) of fish stock into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, then drop tablespoonfuls of the chilled batter into the hot stock – the dumplings will float to the surface when they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.
When the dumplings are ready, put the crème fraîche into a small bowl and stir in a few spoonfuls of the soup (this will help to stop it curdling), then pour into the pan. Add the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with dill.
Place a few dumplings in each bowl and ladle over the soup.
Images & text from Amber & Rye by Zuza Zak. pPhotography by Ola O. Smit and Yasin Salazar. Murdoch Books RRP $49.99.