Open Fire Cooking: Traditional Fish Soup
The town of Baja in Hungary has a poorly kept secret…
Once a year they host an amazing festival dedicated to the humble fish soup. I know what you’re thinking, “a whole festival for fish soup is oddly specific” or “this must be some real good fish soup”, and yes on both fronts you are indubitably correct!
For four days every year Baja is descended upon by thousands of foodies with a passion for their staple dish. Families all have their own varieties and everyone comes together on the banks of the river Danube to cook up a storm and celebrate this infamous fisherman's festival. I mean, the official name is the "Family-Friendly Fish Soup Festival of Baja". You literally couldn't get any more wholesome and delightful!
The festival began in 1996 to celebrate the 300th anniversary Baja’s town status, at this time 400 fish kettles lined the river banks in celebration. A mere 4 years later there were 2,000 kettles, all boiling away with delectable freshwater or river fish soup (traditionally seawater fish is a no-no!).
So why am I telling you about this?
Because we at EcoFuel LOVE cooking over an open fire and our lovely George has brought this Hungarian tradition to our mouths, thusly we wanted to bring it to yours!
A lot of the time you hear open fire cooking and you think of grilling, barbecuing, ect but there’s a whole other spectrum of fire cooking out there and we wholly support bringing it to the mainstream.
What you need to get started is a kettle pot, a tripod to hang the pot from, and an open fire. All demonstrated below by George
(Side note: George is cooking over our Elegante Fire Pit, you know, just in case you took a fancy to it!)
Obviously enough the next thing you need is fish, and lots of it. OG Hungarian Fish Soup uses mainly Carp but a truly delicious fish stew mixes it up with other types too such as Catfish, Starlet, and Bass (George assures us some Salmon thrown in there will work well too), you need about 250-300g of fish per person, 1 onion per KG of fish (so add appropriately), 1-2 green peppers, 1-2 cans of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of ground paprika, salt, and water.
(Can I just say here I am loving how approximate the ingredients are, it really add to the rustic, generational feeling to the whole dish)
The method to the madness goes a little like this:
- Prep your fish by cleaning and washing them, opening them to remove chitterlings, removing the heads, fins, and tails. Then cut the bigger fish into finger width slices and salt them.
- Chop your onion and fry it in some lard until transparent
- Add any smaller fish, the fins, tails, and heads (without eyes and gills) into the pan with the onion and sprinkle over the ground paprika. (VERY IMPORTANT: Be careful not to let your paprika burn or it will give your soup a bitter taste)
- Straight away add enough water to cover the fish and leave to cook for 30-40 minutes. You'll know it's ready when the fish is coming off the bones. Voila, this is your fish broth!
- When your broth is cooked mash it through a colander. If it's too thick add a little more water.
- Add your salted fish slices to the broth with your tomatoes and sliced green peppers and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes, taste and add additional seasoning if necessary. (VERY IMPORTANT: Don't stir it while it's boiling because you may break the fish up, if you think it's sticking give your pot a little wiggle to gently dislodge the stuck fish)
- If you're looking for Bajai style fish soup you can add in some noodles during the final boil as it traditional.
And that's it, super simple to make, super tasty to eat! The great thing about this is that the recipe is very open to tweaks and changes here and there to make it your own, just like the thousands of people celebrating the Fish Soup Festival so don't be too afraid to experiment and make your own special family Fish Soup Recipe!