I’ve always found it surprising that when people start out on a paleo or traditional foods journey, fish stock falls last on the list when it comes to mastering homemade broth-making. Fish stock is by far the quickest and easiest to make. It’s also the most nutritious of all the broths and arguably the most delicious.
I’ve converted many a fish broth skeptic in my workshops. I always wait for the familiar moment that invariably takes place as tastings circulate the room. A gasp from one of the aforementioned skeptics. “It’s DIVINE. It’s not even fishy!”
And you know what? It’s NOT fishy.
The only minor hurdle for fish stock novices is handling fish heads for the first time. Some recipes suggest using carcasses only, which is a starting point for the squeamish, I guess. However, the lion’s share of the nutrition can be found in the head. It’s worth overcoming this hurdle nice and early. In fact, if you’re after maximum nutrition – I’d suggest opting for a heads-only stock.
Why fish stock?
Fish heads are exceptionally valuable as they contain something that us modern folk rarely eat: the thyroid gland! Combined with its abundant, bioavailable iodine, fish broth is one of the most nourishing foods for thyroid health.
It’s also the most economical stock you can make. Get to know your fishmonger and they may offer you the heads and carcasses for free. At most, they’ll only charge a few dollars. Not bad for a few litres of this medicinal and versatile food! Often there’s enough meat left on the larger fish (e.g Barramundi) to utilise for a meal, especially if they’re not severed immediately behind the gill cover. Don’t underestimate how delicious and tender fish cheeks are!
Sourcing your fish
When it comes to the products of land animals, healthy food can only be a product of sustainable farming practices. Frustratingly, with seafood there’s often a trade-off between nutrition and sustainability. I’ve always recommended people opt for wild fish over farmed, as commercial fish feed utilises some pretty unappetising ingredients. However, these days there’s other issues to consider with sourcing wild fish, such as dwindling supplies or unsustainable fishing methods. Ideally, you’d find a variety in your area that ticks both boxes (wild and sustainable) using Sustainable Seafood Guide or similar.
Avoid oily fish where possible, as the unsaturated oils aren’t stable when cooked for long periods. If it’s the only type on offer, simply skim the fat off your broth before consuming it. Note however, that oily fish will also produce a stronger fishy flavour.
This recipe can be enjoyed like any other broth: heated up with lots of salt, a sliver of butter, and squeeze of lemon. It’s a highly nourishing snack on its own. You can also add the broth to sauces, soups, and curries.
- 1 wild, white fish carcass (or 2-3 fish heads)
- 1 onion or leek, roughly chopped
- 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ bunch parsley
- coriander or dill
- Small handful of lemon thyme
- 5 kaffir lime or lemon myrtle leaves
- Place all ingredients in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring the stock to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to low.
- Skim and remove any foam that may have risen to the top, then simmer gently for 40 minutes or up to 4 hours.
- Allow the broth to cool slightly, removing any oil from the surface with a ladle.
- Strain into glass jars for the fridge and consume within 2 days. If you're planning to freeze it, fish broth will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Leave at least an inch of space from the top to prevent your jars cracking and consume within 24hrs of defrosting.
Look for any type of wild, non-oily fish if possible (e.g. Snapper or Barramundi when they're in season).