FoodOld delicacy makes a culinary comeback

Old delicacy makes a culinary comeback

Catfish soup
Catfish soup
Images source: © Adobe Stock

15 June 2024 20:03

It reaches enormous sizes, and its meat is tender, slightly sweet, and almost boneless. No wonder catfish was considered a true delicacy, and our ancestors eagerly prepared a delicious soup from it, which is now making a comeback…

After the beluga, it is the second-largest freshwater fish in Europe. Under favourable conditions, it can reach monstrous dimensions. This is still tiny compared to the sizes of giants seen in the 19th century – contemporary chronicles mention a fish extracted from the Oder River that weighed over… 400 kilograms!

Catfish likes large, deep rivers, but it also feels great in oxbow lakes and reservoirs. It feeds after sunset, eating fish, frogs, crayfish, and even water birds or small mammals. Adult individuals are loners, and some can live up to 100 years. Of course, provided they do not fall victim to anglers, for whom catching this fish is a big challenge and a source of pride.

Even centuries ago, catfish was valued for its tasty and delicate meat and very few bones, distinguishing it from other freshwater cousins like carp.

The dish is simple to prepare yet unique in flavour. The recipe for catfish soup is passed down from generation to generation, ensuring that it still appears on the tables of residents in Vistula riverside towns on many occasions and on the menus of local restaurants.

Catfish – nutritional properties

Catfish meat is a rich source of high-quality protein, containing amino acids essential to our bodies, notably aspartic acid (which improves concentration and mental acuity), glutamic acid (the main neurotransmitter stimulating the central nervous system), leucine (which stimulates muscle protein synthesis), and lysine (which promotes post-exercise recovery, participates in fat metabolism, and increases immunity).

Compared to marine fish, catfish does not provide a hefty dose of fatty acids, but it boasts a favourable ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats for our health. This helps lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, reduce blood triglyceride levels, and thus reduce the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases.

Catfish meat contains a significant amount of vitamin E, known as the "vitamin of youth," because it has strong antioxidant properties and slows aging processes. It has a relatively high phosphorus content (supports the nervous system, helps maintain acid-base balance, and is vital for the excellent condition of bones, teeth, gums, and joints) and potassium, the deficiency of which manifests as hypertension, fatigue, irritability, cramps, or swelling of the hands and feet.

Catfish soup recipe

If we buy catfish at a store or directly from a fisherman, we should first examine the fish, which should have a fresh smell, smooth skin, firm meat (no indentation when pressed), shiny eyes, and pink-red gills.

First, we prepare fish stock, which we can use as the head or tail of the catfish, as well as "leftovers" from other fish. We need about 2 kilograms of such "fillers." We rinse it and add it to a pot with previously cut and sautéed vegetables: two stalks of celery, two parsley roots, a piece of celery root, a carrot, and a small onion. We cover it with cold water (about 10 litres) and season it with peppercorns, allspice berries, a bay leaf, and fennel seeds. We cook the stock over low heat without covering the pot. Occasionally, we remove the scum that forms a grey foam on the surface. Finally, we salt the broth and strain it through a dense gauze over a sieve after it has slightly cooled.

We cut the catfish fillet (about 500 grams) into strips, marinate it in salt and pepper for 2-3 hours, and then lightly coat it in flour and sauté it in clarified butter or olive oil. At the same time, we also fry the sliced carrot, parsley, leek, celery, and onion.

We add the vegetables and catfish to the broth, bring it to a boil, and cook for 2-3 minutes (the fish should not fall apart). If necessary, we season the soup with salt and pepper.

The dish tastes best with a slice of fresh bread.

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