Ukha (ooo-hah) is another example of a classic Russian dish where just a few simple ingredients are allowed to shine and stand out. True ukha or fish soup originated as a way for Russian fishermen to be able to have a quick meal while out fishing. It was made with whole freshly caught fish, bones and all, and perhaps a couple of potatoes. I imagine it was cooked in this kind of a cast iron pot over an open fire:
I did once try to make a true ukha with a whole golden pomfret – head, tail, bones and all. While the authenticity (and probably the nutrition content) of it was undeniable, making broth with an entire fish comes out noticeably more… fishy. As in, the entire house smelled like fish for several days after this experiment. Also, I’m afraid my husband, who is used to pretty “sterilized” American-style food was a bit turned-off by the sight of fish heads in his soup broth. (Fish heads, and even eyes are actually considered quite a delicacy in the Russian tradition). So, this time around I made a quick and toned down version of ukha, using just chicken broth I had prepared from earlier, and a couple of filets of cod. I found cod to be a perfect fish to use for this recipe, as it remains firm no matter the cooking time, and is not a very fatty fish.
My Kulinaria book recipe calls for broth made with a whole fish (preferably two different kinds), celery, carrots, potatoes and “greens” – greens could be anything like parsley, cilantro, dill, etc. That’s it!! I added some rice to my soup, because Brian likes his soups a bit more hearty and thick. (Normally this soup would be more clear and translucent than what’s on this image).
So there you have it.
UKHA (this makes about 4 servings) :
6 cups broth (fish is best, but chicken will do in a pinch), made with celery, onions and carrots
1 whole medium-sized fish of your choice (if you dare), or 2 filets of cod.
2 medium potatos, cut into chunks
1/2 cup white long-grain rice
2 cloves crushed garlic
2-3 dried bay leaves (must have!!)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh (or frozen) dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for garnish
salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste
If using a whole fish, cook it in broth, until fish is done, then pull off the skin and pull out the bones. Put meat back into the pot in large chunks. (If using filets, just cut them into bite-sized chunks at the onset).
To the cooked fish and broth, add potato, bay leaves, rice, salt and pepper and cook until the potato is soft and rice is done. At the end of cooking time, add the crushed garlic and dill. Garnish with parsley before serving.