Easy Fish Stock Recipe

Fish heads, bones and a variety of common vegetables and seasonings combine superbly with water to make a wonderful fish stock
Fish heads, bones and a variety of common vegetables and seasonings combine superbly with water to make a wonderful fish stock

Fish stock has no hard and fast recipe. Like chicken stock or beef stock, fish stock is usually made from the bones of fish and in this particular instance the heads but the other ingredients can be extremely varied and even unusual. There is one important point to bear in mind, however, when making fish stock and that is that white fish is best for this purpose. Fish like salmon, trout and mackerel - while delicious to eat - do not make good fish stock as the flavours are too overpowering.

Remember also, of course, when deciding which species of fish to use to make fish stock to take account of fish sustainability and try not to be using a species of fish deemed to be in any way endangered.

Freshly Caught Sea Fish are Perfect for Making Fish Stock

These fish were cleaned at home a mere few hours after being taken from the sea
These fish were cleaned at home a mere few hours after being taken from the sea

If you happen to go sea fishing yourself, your own catch will provide you with the perfect opportunity for making pure, fresh fish stock. The fish pictured above were caught in Loch Etive, a sea loch on the West Coast of Scotland, and cleaned and cooked at home within about four hours of the last one being caught. This catch consisted of one mackerel (not suitable for fish stock) and eight small whiting, a sustainable member of the cod family which is ideal for the purpose.

Although fish stock is normally made from "raw" fish heads and bones from which the fillets have been removed, these whiting were mostly on the small side for filleting. I decided to conduct an experiment therefore which I believe worked really well and cook three of these fish on the bone, making stock from the subsequent remains.

How to Bake Whole Fresh Whiting

Prepared whiting are stuffed with herb butter and baked wrapped in foil
Prepared whiting are stuffed with herb butter and baked wrapped in foil
Dill herb butter
Dill herb butter
Dill herb butter is placed in to the belly cavities of the prepared whiting
Dill herb butter is placed in to the belly cavities of the prepared whiting

Fresh herbs, onion, lemon - all and more can be used to stuff the cavities of fish baked in this fashion. In all instances, the fish are firstly gutted and washed under running cold water. The stuffing used here is simply some dill herb butter, sea salt and white pepper.

Lay the stuffed fish in the centre of a large sheet of foil on a baking or roasting tray. Season the outside with more salt and pepper before wrapping the foil in to a loose but sealed tent.

Put the tray in to your oven, preheated to 190C/375F, for about twenty minutes, or slightly longer for larger fish. Remove the tray from the oven and very carefully unwrap the foil. Stick a skewer in to the thickest part of each fish and minimal resistance should be felt where the fish is cooked. Transfer the whiting carefully to a large plate and leave until cool enough to handle.

Peel back the skin from the whiting and pull the flesh off in large flakes. Set aside for later inclusion in a fish pie. Discard the skin and fins and you should be left simply with the head and skeleton.

Note: The flesh could of course be peeled from the whiting as soon as they come out of the oven with your fish slice and served immediately with perhaps some new potatoes and your vegetable of choice.

A Stock Pot is Essential for Making Most Stocks

The relatively quantity of stock made in this recipe means it can be prepared in a large, conventional pot. If, however - as may well be the case - you are looking to make larger quantities of stock, perhaps to freeze in batches, a proper stock pot will be required. These pots can be expensive to buy new but very often a great bargain can be had on eBay or Amazon.

Making the Fish Stock

The fish heads and bones are added to a large soup or stock pot with the principal vegetable ingredients for the stock
The fish heads and bones are added to a large soup or stock pot with the principal vegetable ingredients for the stock
Vegetable Ingredients for Fish Stock
Vegetable Ingredients for Fish Stock
Roughly chopped parsley is added to the fish stock
Roughly chopped parsley is added to the fish stock
Straining the fish stock
Straining the fish stock
Fresh fish stock
Fresh fish stock

Chicken or beef stock will of course take a number of hours' simmering to prepare. Fish stock requires nothing like that length of time and forty-five minutes' simmering is quite sufficient.

The traditional ingredients for making almost any type of stock will include carrot, celery and onion. This recipe is slightly different, calling for two sticks of celery, a medium to large carrot and two shallots instead of the onion. All should be washed and roughly chopped. There is no need to peel the shallots. Add them with the fish remains, half a teaspoon of black peppercorns and some sea salt to a large soup or stock pot and pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover. Put on a high heat until the water starts to boil. Add a small bunch of roughly chopped parsley, cover and simmer gently for forty-five minutes. After this time, turn off the heat and leave the stock to partially cool untouched for about an hour.

When the stock is partially cooled, use a large slotted spoon to remove and discard the fish bones and larger pieces of herb and vegetables. Suspend a sieve over a large bowl and line it with two or three sheets of kitchen paper. Slowly pour the stock in - you may need to do this in stages - and the paper and sieve will remove the remaining impurities.

The fish stock is now ready for use in the recipe of your choice. You may wish to prepare a seafood risotto, a fish stew or perhaps simply a fish soup. Whatever you intend to make, you now have the perfect base from which to build. Alternatively, cool the stock completely and store in the refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze for up to three months.

Fresh Fish Stock Can be Frozen for up to Three Months

Fish stock should be poured in to a plastic dish with a lid before either being refrigerated or frozen
Fish stock should be poured in to a plastic dish with a lid before either being refrigerated or frozen

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8 comments

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, Nell

Wonderful to hear that you are a lady who enjoys fishing! Mackerel fishing can be great fun but they're definitely not for stock. In UK waters, sustainable fish for stock include whiting, coley and pollack. Hope you get the chance soon to catch up with some of them and make your own stock :)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, I have never made this type of stock, but I have been out mackerel fishing, and brought loads back home, gutted and cooked them. as you said though, they are not good for stock, but maybe next time I go out I will catch something else and have a go! cheers nell


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, azahorik and thanks for visiting and commenting. I'm glad the hub's topical for you! :)

Scorpion fish is a species I have heard of but never tried. If it works, that's all that matters to me. I love the fact that people around the world make essentially the same end product by utilising what they have available. Long may it continue!


azahorik profile image

azahorik 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA/Venice, Italy

Well-done hub, and personally pretty interesting, since I've been drowning in fish and fish stocks lately.

Fun fact: Here in Venice people like to use scorpion fish as a base for fish stock or fish soup, as well as throwing in some clams. (Carpet shell clams, I think.) Mussels are considered too strongly flavored, and shrimp used occasionally, though not that often for basic stock.

Voted up!


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, michifus. Yes, certain shellfish also make excellent stock, which I particularly love included in a seafood risotto. Definitely a lot of taste wasted in many instances by some people. Thanks for stopping by.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, mljd

I have tried making stock with stronger fish like trout and although it's strictly speaking usable it is unfortunately not up to the quality of stock made with white fish. It's a shame, I know.

Thanks for visiting and commenting and I hope you do catch some species soon from which you can make stock.


michifus profile image

michifus 4 years ago

Excellent hub showing how easy it is to make fish stock. Its well worth it. I make a good one with prawn(Shrimp) shells and prawn heads. No need to let all that good taste go to waste eh? Great hub. Voted Up!


mljdgulley354 profile image

mljdgulley354 4 years ago

I wish trout would make good stock since that is the fish we catch most. Good hub, very informative.

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