Greek Fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) is a traditional Greek soup made from fresh fish. This soup is healthy because it includes lots of vegetables and herbs. It is Greek fishermen who developed and enjoyed the soup and thus it is named after them. Being on a boat all day would restrict their meals. They could only eat whatever they cooked in their ‘kakavi’ cooking pot. They would use any fish or crustacean they caught that day to make this delicious soup. It is actually said, they would use the small fish or whatever fish they could not sell on the market. No matter what fish is used, this soup is easy, nutritious and simply mouthwatering.
Greek Fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) is a fish stew very similar to many other ones. For example cacciucco, bouillabaisse, zarzuela and caldeirada.
This Greek Fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) is very adaptable. It works with all kinds of white fish and / or crustaceans. So pick your favourite fish and lets make it!
Greek Fisherman’s soup ingredients
This light and rustic Greek Fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) relies on the fresh ingredients and their combination for a flavoursome result.
Fish or crustaceans
Fish of course plays an important part in this soup. Any white fish, small or large, and even crustaceans will do for this delicious soup. Visit your local fishmongers and chose the freshest fish for the soup. Ask your fishmonger to descale and gut fish to save you time.
Fish varieties vary between continents. In Greece, cod, monkfish, flying fish, hake, scorpion fish, seabass and of course prawns, shrimp, squid, mussels, lobster are most commonly used. Ask your local fishmonger for recommendations!
The easiest, tastiest, nutritious and meaty fish to use would be cod. Cod has large pin bones that can easily be removed. In addition, cod is low in calories, rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and minerals.
Extra virgin olive oil is a must in this mouth-watering soup. Fishermen could only carry olive oil but not butter whilst at sea and thus olive oil was used. Addition of extra virgin olive oil makes the soup more flavoursome.
Onions are a corner stone in this one pot fish soup. In this simple Greek fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) I don’t pre-cook, ie sauté the onions, prior to adding them to the soup, but rather cook (boil) them raw. Tender cooked onions will provide body and taste to the soup. If you would rather sauté the onions, go ahead and do so bearing in mind the soup will be a touch heavier. Sautéed onions will bring a nice caramelised taste to the soup. You can also roast the onions before adding them to the soup, though this will increase cooking time.
Gloves of garlic add a mild sweet and pungent flavour to the soup.
Potatoes will add body and flavour to the soup. Waxy potatoes are very good for soups as they hold their shape and cook quicker than other varieties. Red potatoes can also be very good for soups.
Boiled carrots turn soft when cooked, with their sweet taste pairing perfectly with the potatoes.
Zucchini or courgette
Chop the zucchini or courgette into chunks and add in this fish soup. There is no need to peel it. Zucchinis or courgettes are very popular vegetables in soups due to their mild sweet taste.
Tomatoes will bring a tangy flavour to the soup and will also counteract the fish smell. Roma or plum ripe tomatoes are the best to use as they are full of flavour. This recipe calls for one tomato, so make sure you choose a ripe one.
There are numerous herbs that pair perfectly with this light fish soup. For my recipe I use parsley as I prefer simple flavours. Should you feel adventurous bay leaves, thyme, cilantro and fennel go well in this soup.
Keeping this fish soup light and easy, season with salt and pepper alone. Should you fancy a spicy kick, then add a few chilli flakes.
How to make Greek Fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) or Greek Fish stew
Start by washing the vegetables. Peel and chop the potatoes into chunks or cubes of 3x3cm or 1x1inches, onions into large chunks, carrots in 5mm rounds, celery in 2cm or 0.8 inches and the courgette (Zucchini). Chop the tomato and finely slice the gloves of garlic.
Pour olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions for 1-2 minutes. Carry on by adding cloves of garlic, potato cubes, carrots and the courgette chunks. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir whilst cooking.
Pour water or fish stock into the saucepan along with celery and season with salt and pepper. Make sure there is ample liquid (water or fish sock) covering the vegetables, reaching approximately 4-5cm above the vegetables. Boil for 20-25 minutes over medium heat. Taste to check seasoning and add more if necessary.
Whilst the vegetables are boiling, wash, scale and gut the fish. Cut the fish flesh into chunks of 6-8cm or 2-3 inches. Refrigerate the fish chunks until it is time to add them in the soup. Squeeze also a lemon and set the juice aside.
Once the vegetables have boiled and they are soft, add the fish chunks. Place the fish chunks on top of the vegetables and let the soup boil for 12-15 minutes. Bear in mind that cooking time will depend on the size of the fish chunks. Large chunks of fish will require longer cooking time than small pieces of fish. Check that the fish chunks have cooked and are therefore soft. Add lemon juice to the soup.
This Greek Fisherman’s soup (Kakavia) is best when made with fresh fish. Any white fish, large or small and even crustaceans will do for this delicious soup. Visit your local fishmongers and chose the freshest fish for the soup. Ask your fishmonger to scale, gut and clean fish for you so that you can save time. Even better if you just get some already filleted cod!
You may not like fish heads, but consider adding them to the soup, as they give off a wonderful taste. Discard them after cooking though.
When adding fish or crustacean portions, make sure they are roughly of equal size. Cooking time will depend on their size and if you have fish of mixed size you risk overcooking some and undercooking others.
Removing bones from small fish can be very difficult and time consuming, though I have the solution for you. When cooking very small fish, wrap them in a thin cloth or net. The fish will more or less melt whilst cooking, while the fish bones will be contained within the cloth.
Serve this delicious and light soup with bread or with a handful of croutons. This greek fish stew soup pairs well with fish salads. You can also go ‘surf and turf’ by combining this Greek fish stew with a juicy steak.
How long does it last in the fridge?
This fish soup can last 2-3 days in the fridge, if it has not been devoured by then!
Soup left overs suggestions
Looking for ideas of fish soup left overs? There is no need to discard any soup left overs. Why not make a fish pie out of them? Add 1 tablespoon of cornflour to the soup so that it thickens. Pour the Greek Fisherman’s ingredients (Kakavia) in a baking dish and cover with a layer of mash potatoes and grated cheese or a puff pasty sheet and bake at 220C or 425F for 20 minutes. Brush the puff pastry sheet with egg wash and a little butter and bake.
Greek Fisherman's soup (Kakavia)
- 1.250L water or fish stock (5 and 1/3 cups water or fish stock)
- 700gr white fish or variety of white fish (cod, scorpion fish, flying fish, monk fish, sea bass, red snapper) or crustaceans ( mussels, squid, prawn, shrimp, clams)
- 700gr potatoes ( 3-4 large potatoes)
- 250gr carrots (3-4 medium sized carrots)
- 200gr onions (2-3 medium sized onions)
- 1 zucchini or courgette
- 1 small ripe tomato
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil ( 1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon olive oil)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3-4 sprigs celery
- 1 lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- lemon slices or wedges to serve
- To prepare this Greek Fisherman's soup (Kakavia) start by washing the vegetables. Peel and chop the potatoes into chunks or cubes of 3x3cm or 1x1inches, the onions into large chunks, carrots in 5mm or 0.2 inches rounds, celery in 2cm or 0.8 inches and courgette. Chop the tomato and finely slice the gloves of garlic.
- Pour olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion for 1-2 minutes. Carry on by adding gloves of garlic, potato chunks and carrots rounds and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir whilst cooking.
- Pour water or fish stock into the saucepan along with celery and season with salt and pepper. Water or fish stock should cover the vegetables and be 4-5cm or 1.5-1.9 inches above the vegetables. Cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Taste to check seasoning.
- Whilst the vegetables are boiling, wash, scale and gut the fish. Cut the fish fillets into 6-8cm or 2-3 inches chunks. Refrigerate them until you add them in the soup. Squeeze a lemon and set the juice aside.
- Once the vegetables have boiled and are soft, add the fish chunks. Place the fish chunks on top of the vegetables and cook for 12-15 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the fish chunks. Large chunks of fish will require longer cooking time than small pieces of fish.
- Once the fish chunks have cooked and are soft, add lemon juice.
- Serve with crusty bread or croutons and lemon wedges.