Portrait of a recipe

We caught up with Richard Fidler at the 2018 Sydney Writer’s Festival to talk about his latest book Saga Land, which he co-authored with his dear friend Kari Gislason. In it, he included a recipe for Icelandic fish soup.

“Wherever you go in Iceland no matter how small the village, they tend to have these little cafes that are very modest,” says Richard. “They only have about four or five things on the menu, (and) every one of them is very beautifully done … like cooked haddock … Nearly every one of them had Icelandic fish soup, which was just heavenly. And in cold weather … oh my God! In fact I need it right now.”

We didn’t use Richard’s recipe here so as to encourage you to buy his book and try it out yourselves. Instead, we chose this Icelandic fish stew. Apparently, the traditional Icelandic fish stew version uses a béchamel sauce but this is a cream-based version with a tomato and carrot, which looks so much more delicious in a photo. And let’s face it, with all those big dollops of cream and butter, it’s likely to taste more delicious. This one is a no-brainer and bound to please the hungry hordes now that “winter is coming”. We hear it’s going to be a cold one.

Sarah’s notes: The challenge for this dish lay in sourcing north Atlantic fish in Australia, so we replaced the cod with Murray cod, and used smoked haddock and Atlantic salmon, which we skinned to make a piece of fish crackling. Enjoy!

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 1 medium white onion

  • 2 celery stalks, finely sliced

  • 1 small carrot, dice finely

  • 3/4 cup white wine

  • 1/2 kilo small, waxy potatoes, cut into halves or quarters

  • 1.5 litres of stock (chicken, fish or vegetable)

  • 1 kilo of haddock, cod or other North Atlantic fish such as salmon

  • 1 medium tomato, chopped

  • 2 cups cream

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2-3 tbsp minced chives


In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt butter over medium heat.

Add onions, celery and carrots and sweat until onions are translucent, about six minutes.

Add white wine, bring to a simmer and reduce by half, about five minutes.

Add stock and potatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Add cubed fish and chopped tomatoes; softly simmer for another five minutes.

Turn heat down to low, add cream and salt and pepper to tasted heat until soup is piping hot but not boiling (otherwise the cream will curdle).

Turn off heat, add chives and serve immediately.

Sarah’s notes: This recipe loves a crusty roll and butter. Alternatively, you can try a pangretta with fried breadcrumbs, olive oil and lemon zest to give it a bit of crunch.

Image Credit: Sarah Mills, Word of Mouth TV