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Gluten-Free Mediterranean: Kakavia (Fisherman’s Soup)

Try this fantastic recipe for Kakavia (Fisherman’s Soup) shared with Active Retirees by Helen Tzouganatos from her cookbook Gluten-Free Mediterranean.

Kakavia is a soup Greek fishermen prepare on their boats to feed the crew using the day’s catch. The name is derived from the ‘kakavi’,
the tripod cooking pot ancient Greek fishermen used to cook the soup. Kakavia is similar to other Mediterranean fish stews like French bouillabaisse, Italian cacciucco, Spanish zarzuela and Portuguese caldeirada. The aim is to use the freshest seafood possible, but you can be quite flexible with the ingredients, which are generally a combination of fish, shellfish, vegetables, saffron and a tomato broth. I love the combination of delicate sweet snapper and mussels for that fresh ocean flavour; feel free to add vongole (clams), pipis or prawns, if you wish.




3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, sliced diagonally
2 celery stalks, sliced diagonally
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 large all-purpose potato (such as sebago), peeled and cut into 3 cm cubes
2 tomatoes, grated, skin discarded
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
juice of 1 small lemon
finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and lemon wedges, to serve

Fish stock

1 whole snapper (roughly 1.4 kg), scaled, cleaned and cut into
3 pieces
2 garlic cloves, bashed and peeled
3 fresh bay leaves
pinch of saffron threads
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
10 black peppercorns


To make the fish stock, place the snapper in a stockpot and add 1.5 litres of water, the garlic, bay leaves, saffron, salt and peppercorns. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the snapper to a shallow bowl and strain the murky stock into a large bowl, discarding the solids.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes to soften the vegetables. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the potato, tomato and strained fish stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the mussels and simmer for 4–5 minutes or until they have opened (discard any that do not open). Using a slotted spoon, scoop out 1–2 cups of vegetables and blitz in a food processor to form a puree (the more vegetables in your puree the thicker your soup will be). Return the puree to the pan and stir to combine and add body to the soup. Take off the heat and squeeze in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt as required.

Remove the snapper flesh from the bones and divide equally among serving bowls. Pour in the soup, season with a little black pepper, scatter on some parsley and serve with lemon wedges.


For a more flavoursome fish stock, ask your fishmonger for extra fish heads and bones (anything but salmon) to add to the pot when simmering the snapper.