Merlu soup with asparagus & peas

Merlu soup with asparagus & peas

Merlu koskera

Luke Nguyen's France
Alan Benson

Merlu is a deep-sea fish, similar in appearance to cod, but with a more subtle flavour. It is considered one of the best fish in the whiting family because of its firm, sweet, white meat and medium flake. Here it stars in a traditional soup from the Basque region, paired with asparagus, peas and parsley. This recipe takes only 30 minutes to prepare, cook and serve. Of course, crusty bread is the perfect accompaniment.


Quantity Ingredient
500g clams, purged
125ml olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 thyme sprig
3 roasted long red capsicums, sliced, (see note)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
250ml white wine
500ml fish stock
1/2 teaspoon ground espelette pepper or hot paprika, (see glossary)
1.2kg merlu or hake cutlets
100g shelled green peas
12 white asparagus spears
5 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered


  1. Place the clams in a hot saucepan and let them cook in their own juices for 2 minutes, or until the shells have opened. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and thyme for 3 minutes, then add the capiscum, parsley and wine. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the wine has reduced by half.
  3. Stir in the stock, espelette pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Add the fish cutlets and cover with a lid. Simmer for 8 minutes.
  4. Now add the peas, then place the asparagus on top of the fish. Pop the lid back on and cook for 3–5 minutes, just until the peas and asparagus are tender but still have some lovely texture.
  5. To serve, divide the clams and fish cutlets among serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the top, then top with the egg quarters. Garnish with extra chopped parsley and serve.


  • To roast the capsicums, cut into quarters then remove the seeds and white membranes. Place on a large baking tray, skin side up. Roast for 15–20 minutes or until the skins blister and turn black. Remove from the oven and place in a paper bag until cool. Peel away the blackened skins.
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