Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk Fiskesuppe)

An exciting Christmas for us this year, spending two days in Bergen and then heading north on a Hurtigruten cruise to Tromsø. Bergen is famous for its rain which didn’t disappoint. The weather was mild until we crossed the Arctic Circle. Then it was cold and Northern Lights appeared dancing around in the night sky. In Tromsø, which we had last visited three years ago, we felt very much at home.

Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk Fiskesuppe) was on every menu. Alan Davidson rightly calls it, ‘one of the best soups in the world’. It can be thicker or thinner and the fish can vary but always the fish is the freshest.

I base my version on the recipe in Signe Johansen’s book, Scandilicious. The mussels (or clams could be used), brandy and white wine are luxuries that you may wish to omit for a midweek meal.

Prawn with shell on illustration for The Allotment Kitchen by Susan Williamson illustrated by Carrie Hill

100g cooked shell on prawns
1½ litres fish stock
1 bay leaf
Handful parsley
12 whole black peppercorns
2 carrots, finely diced or grated
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1-2 leeks halved and finely sliced
100ml dry white wine
50ml brandy
300ml double creeam
100g salmon fillets cut into small pieces
170g white fish (cod, haddock or pollock), skin removed and cut into small cubes
100g mussels
Salt and freshly grated black pepper

Shell the prawns. Keep the shelled prawns in the fridge. Put the shells in a saucepan with a lid together with half of the fish stock, bay leaf, peppercorns and most of the parsley. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes or so.

Place the rest of the fish stock in a large saucepan, again with a lid, and add the carrots, celery and leeks. If using grated carrots, these can be added later as they will not take long to cook. Cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked.

Strain the fish stock with prawn shells and add some of the stock to the pan with the stock and vegetables but hold back a little to be able to judge the thickness of the soup. Any extra stock can be frozen and kept for later use.

Add the brandy, white wine and cream. Return the pan to a simmering heat and add the salmon, white fish and mussels. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Lastly add the prawns and let them cook for a minute.

Season, Check the consistency of the soup, adding more stock if necessary. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened. Serve hot with finely chopped parsley and chives scattered on top.

This soup goes well with crispbread or dark rustic bread or toast.