Elba style cacciucco

Cacciucco is a fish soup believed to have been invented by the fishermen as a way of using up the fish that by the end of the day had not been sold. For this reason most of the fish used for making it was what was considered poor man's fish, and the quantity and choice depended greatly on what fish was in season.

The best known recipe is the one from Livorno, not very different from the Elba version. People from Livorno say you need at least 5 different types of fish to make a good "cacciucco", the same as the number of "C's" there are in the word itself (which is why it should always be called "cacciucco" and never "caciucco").

The Elba version of "cacciucco" isn't as rich as the Livorno one, that also includes more poor man's fish like moray eel, weever fish and conger eel. Never consider it just an ordinary "fish soup" because the recipe must be followed ingreat detail: for example the octopus must be cooked in a separate pan with the squid, and the mussels must be added at the very end because there is nothing worse than overcooked and tasteless mussels.

Whatever type and quantity of fish you choose, all the different flavours must mingle together so that the end product will have both the scent of the sea and be very, very tasty.

Ingredients for 6

For the fish stock: 500 gr of rockfish, olive oil, 1 small onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stick, 1 glass dry white wine, 4 or 5 cloves, 2 laurel leaves, salt and chilli pepper to taste

Soup ingredients:300 gr squid, 500 gr octopus, 1 kg mixed fish (dogfish, gurnards, capons, conger eel, moray eel, weevers, redfish, mantis shrimps, mussels or any other fish of your choice, depending on availability), 12 small crabs.
1 onion, 6 garlic cloves, 3 or 4 sage leaves, 1 glass dry white wine, tomato puree, chopped parsely, salt, chilli pepper and oil.

Method

To make the stock, put the onion, carrot and celery into a pot and fry gently in the oil until soft, then add the rockfish and the heads and tails of the fish to be used for the soup. Add white wine and bring to the boil, then cover with cold water. Add salt, chilli pepper, cloves and laurel leaves, then leave to boil slowly for about half an hour. Put through a fine sieve and leave to cool.

To make the "cacciucco": Cut the squid and octopus into large chunks and the other fish into small pieces and leave aside.

In another pot gently fry the finely chopped onion, garlic, chilli pepper and sage.

Add the squid, octopus and shellfish and cook gently until the octopus has turned a purplish colour. Add the white wine, bring to the boil, then add the tomato puree that you have diluted in a little hot water (better than pieces of fresh tomato which tend to be a little too sweet).

Simmer slowly for about 15 minutes, adding stock as needed as you add the other fish, depending on how long it takes to cook them, and only then add the mussels and adjust to taste, it must have a slightly spicy flavour.

The "cacciucco" is ready when the oil comes to the surface.

Hint from InfoelbaMake sure you don't overcook otherwise you will lose most of the flavour!

Serve with toasted bread enhanced with a scrape of garlic and freshly chopped parsely.

Photographs SBS Food
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