Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aljotta (Maltese fish soup) made with lampuki aka mahimahi

This is a broth based soup, and has 2 distinct parts to making it.  The first is the stock, which is a very simple fish stock.  The second is where this actually gets its name from, which is the soup base consisting of lots of garlic (aglio!) onions, tomatoes and very importantly, marjoram.

Don't be fooled, all that delicious rice and bits of fish are in the bottom.  this is a delicious soup!! :)

Marjoram and Garlic (apart from the fish stock of course) are the most important ingredients in this soup.  They lend the flavour to it, differing it from "just any" fish based broth.  

For some reason I also prefer to use the purplish onions.  Maybe cos they are the ones grown in Malta, maybe cos i like the colour purple, or maybe cos I am pretty sure they make me cry less than the ones that are brown skinned, white fleshed. 

You can use any fish to make this soup, however i have a special taste for either vopi (i think they'e called pilot fish in English) and Lampuki aka mahimahi aka dorado, aka dolphin fish.  I would recommend using a strong flavoured fish (esp heads and bones!) at least in the stock, and adding white fish to is as an optional thing right at the end.

bubble bubble toil and trouble! - also note the freshness of lampuki, the gold and blue hues are still very visible!
 Now, to make this soup, you don't actually need to use the whole fish.  In fact, I've always seen it being made with the heads and tails of the fish that mum would use as the main meal.  Nowadays, we get the fishmonger to fillet the fish, so we use the heads, tails and spines as the stock base.

I believe this soup was one that came out of the necessity of stretching each bit of food as far as possible in the past - and my aversion to waste makes me love it even more.  One of my favourite meals, and it's made from things you'll find at home all the time, plus a few fish-heads.  lovely! :) 


Fish heads/tales/spine (or whole small fish) - I used the heads and bones of 5 x medium sized fish.
2 medium onions, sliced very finely.
salt, pepper, a fresh lemon
marjoram, fresh, heaps of! (this is not really something that can be substituted, it will not taste like aljotta without it.  but if you must, use fresh oregano, it's inferior, in this case at least, cousin).  remove leaves from stalks :)
500 grams tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Kunserva
olive oil.
10 or more large cloves of garlic, chopped roughly.
50 grams white long-grain rice, raw.

In one large pot, place fish bones (after washing them) and barely cover them with water.  add some salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon, and bring to the boil.  As soon as it bubbles, turn down heat and let simmer for about 1 hour.  As soon as this is ready, lift the fish out of the water (keep the water of course!) and using your hands, after the fish has cooled, gently pull off any meat left on the bones.  This meat will be going back into the soup, so be careful (and make surre you're using your fingers to feel) not to put any bones in the "back to the pot" pile.
 The aim is to have about 2 litres of stock, so if you have heaps more, turn up the heat and reduce it a little.  If you have less, don't worry, add more water later if needs be.
ready to be "harvested" for meat, and then squeezed through a sieve to get the best flavours out!
 Put the stock through a fine sieve, to ensure no bones are left in the pot.  Rinse the pot then return the stock and fish meat to it.

In a separate small frying pan or saucepan (you can do this while the stock is simmering), heat some olive oil and start frying the onions on a low-medium heat - u don't want them to brown!  when they have softened, add the garlic, again ensure that in no way does this stuff get brown!!!  When softened, add the Kunserva, then tomatoes and marjoram leaves.  Turn it right down and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until thicker and all nice and cooked.

Add the saucey stuff to the fish stock, and stir around.  Taste and adjust seasoning (no need for pepper, just salt and maybe some more lemon).

Just before you're ready to serve, bring to a bubbling simmer, and add about 50 grams of white long grain rice.  cook until done, and serve with plenty of lemon wedges :)

This soup is a great starter, or perfect for a light meal :)  Serve with some Maltese (or any delicious sourdough loaf).  My dad loves to just drop bits of the fresh bread into the soup, i must say it's quite tasty. 

It's simplicity makes me really think of Maltese peasant food.  Again, a fantastic meal using scraps and bits :)  love it! :D

N.B.  the first time I made this soup, I added about a cup of rice, so it ended up being a very very delicious risotto, rather than a soup.  I has also only used 2 fish heads and tails, so had made much less water.  It was quite funny, but seriously, was so tasty that I would consider having this accident again.  :)


  1. The best soup ever! The best recipe! THANK YOU!

  2. Authentic!
    I enjoyed Aljotta while visiting Malta, and was very happy to find the recipe to make this perfect soup at hope.

    Thank you!

  3. this is the BEST recipe I ever found for Aljotta online! Very Authentic!

    1. Thanks so much Joey - this is exactly how my mother taught me to make it :) glad you like the recipe! :)