Ugly, thrifty, wonderful fish soup
If you call something or someone "morralla", you are doubtless referring to "scum" or "bilge". It´s an insult. But actually what morralla means is the heap of fish and shellfish left at the bottom of the net, too small or too damaged to sell, and often used by fishermen in soups and broths. And that´s not so bad, surely?
I´d never had access to it because Madrid is far from the sea, and the fish that arrives, while plentiful, tends to be of the good-looking, important type. But yesterday I scored a handful of morralla, a beautiful, slightly scary looking lot of tiny sea monsters.
With the economy so bad and everything so glum, it´s great to know that you can feed four people with this hearty soup, and not feel deprived at all. It´s reasonably sophisticated, and tastes great. Which of course it might, since it´s served with Gruyere and rouille toasts, and frankly, what doesn´t taste amazing with that? Mind you, it starts out so ugly that you might think I´ve gone crazy, but trust me, this works.
It´s a very simple soup that starts, as so many good things, with a sofrito (and to be truly Provençal you should use fennel, and orange peel and saffron. But I don´t like fennel and had no oranges on hand, so I used leeks, and oregano and lemon peel, and vermouth instead of Pernod).
Then the whole fish and water to cover are added, and left to simmer for 40 minutes, until everything is falling apart.
Now comes the weird part: you puree it, bones and all. If it was ugly before, now it looks like an untidy sludge you wouldn´t feed your cat, but, patience. Strain it through a chinois and you´re left with a creamy thick soup.
I add a slug of sherry because I can´t help thinking it brightens up every soup.
Serve with grated cheese, toast and rouille.
If you can´t find morralla (and today already there was none at the market) then just do it with whole fish, cut in big chunks. Or buy a couple of whole fish and ask for them to be boned and filleted, and simply make a broth with the bones from your fish and any others the fishmonger may give you, and do this less alarming version.