Catch of the Day: A Fish Alphabet Soup for Kids (and Tired Parents)

On my list of kid-friendly foods that are both nutrient-dense and inexpensive, a fish-head broth secures the prominent spot. Fish heads are, too often, abandoned by customers who fancy flawless fish fillets or who disregard heads for various reasons. Unwanted and not attractive to many, they are sold at bargain prices.

Fish heads

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, or your fishmonger is in a good mood, they are even free. That’s what happened yesterday when my husband went to a fish market to buy mussels (and we agreed to split the scrubbing time). The person standing before him in the line purchased three pounds of whole sea bass and asked the fishmonger to remove the heads. Was it for a potentially bewildered look in my husband’s eyes (he considers fish heads to be a delicacy) or the fact that it was near closing time, but the fishmonger offered the heads for free to my husband. In other words, one man’s trash is another family’s fish feast!

Zoe has always loved fish soup, and, for that matter, any kind of sea food. For a mother of a picky eater (who’s not particularly joyful about most veggies, whole grains and legumes), the ability to add nutritious foods that please her selective palate is a welcome break.

Why is fish soup so good for kids?

It is a natural concentrated food source (I admit to having a small yet, apparent obsession with such sources) of minerals including calcium, magnesium, selenium and phosphorous. The fish head contains the thyroid gland along with iodine, thyroid hormone, and other healthy substances that were used since ancient times to induce strength, energy and mental abilities (sounds like just what my school-child and I need in these chilly pre-winter days). Fish broth also contains gelatin that aids digestion and helps in the management of anemia and diabetes. In short, it’s a good stuff.

Playtime with fish

Which fish makes a good stock?

White-fleshed fish should be chosen. Think: sole, turbot, rockfish, snapper, snapper, sea bass or cod. On the other hand, oily fish including salmon, mackerel, bluefish, herring and sardines are not a good choice since unsaturated fish oils turn rancid during the prolonged cooking process.

So, here is a recipe for a very easy, yet superb meal that you can offer to your child! Very easy on the pocket too.

Easy Fish Alphabet Broth

Ingredients:

  • Fish heads (about 1 pound)
  • ¼ cup of organic vinegar (it helps extract the minerals)
  • Cold water (to cover completely)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional additions: onion, carrot, celery, leak, celeriac, parsley, bay leaf

Procedure:

  • Rinse the heads under cold water. If you intend to eat them, descale thoroughly.

Fresh fish heads

  • Add the fish heads and any vegetables of your choice to the pot
  • Add cold water to cover everything
  • Add vinegar
  • Bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat, cover and gently simmer for about for 2-4 hrs (some folks go as long as 24 hrs).
  • Strain everything through a fine sieve. Put the fish heads aside.

Fish stock and heads

  • Return the stock to the pot and bring to a boil again. For some extra fun, I add one tablespoon of alphabet pasta and cook for another five minutes. Rice, barley, potatoes have worked really well too.

Alphabet pasta

  • Season as desired.
  • Enjoy immediately

Fish soup for kids

What to do with the cooked fish heads?

Andrew Zimmern would probably be offended by this question. Yes, we eat everything that can safely be swallowed. Isn’t it only natural and ethical to eat everything? I certainly think so. Zoe, since early age, copied her daddy and learned how to gnaw on bones with appreciation.

Comforting, healthy, flavorful and…inspiring!

Fish Swimming, Art by Zoe

Fish market photo: Flickr

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