This comforting soup is one of the first things I learned to cook when I was about 12 or 13 years old back home in Cyprus. It’s simple to prepare, nourishing, delicious and popular all year round. You don’t have to make the soup avgolemoni, it is still lovely without the eggs and lemon.
1.36kg (3lb) various white fish, large or slices or smaller ones – grey mullet, sea-bass, snapper, carp, grouper, monkfish, cod, scorpion, swordfish (heads and lobster shells, make good stock)
1 ½ litres water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 vegetable cube, diluted in the hot water
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped like the carrots, including the leaves
1 medium courgette, cut like the carrots
2-3 medium waxy potatoes (they don’t break when cooked), peeled and cubed
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
75g/3oz long grain rice, washed and drained
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme or oregano, remove from the stalks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ tsp paprika
For the Avgolemono broth:
Juice of 2 lemons or more
Lemon wedges for serving
Wash fish, season with salt and pepper and place in a large soup pot with the bay leaves, pour over the stock to completely cover the fish and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
Carefully remove fish from the saucepan, place into a large plate and allow to cool a little. Skin and debone the fish and cut into small cubes, keep warm.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl and keep for later.
Heat the olive oil and butter in the saucepan and sauté the onions until transparent, then all the vegetables apart from the potatoes and gently cook for 5 minutes.
Pour in the sieved stock from the fish, season with salt, pepper and paprika, add the herbs and cook gently for 10 minutes. Mix in the potatoes and rice and cook for another 15 minutes, then add the fish – if the soup is too thick, add more hot liquid, place in warm soup bowls and enjoy!
If you want to make it with egg and lemon, do not add your cooked fish until you make your avgolemono sauce. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy (I use an electric whisk) and gradually add the lemon juice while continuing to whisk. Take a ladle of the broth from the soup and slowly add to the egg and lemon whisking constantly, add another ladle, whisking as before and pour slowly back into the saucepan, shaking the pan or stirring gently. Return the pan on to a very low heat for a minute or two, do not allow it to come to the boil or the eggs will scramble. Remove from heat and add the cooked fish, taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve the soup in large bowls with crusty bread and lemon wedges.