Waterzooi of Fish

Adapted from The Belgian Cookbook by Nika Hazelton and Everyone Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek

This is a famous fish soup which originated in the town of Ghent in Belgium.  Waterzooi means literally “simmering water.” In Belgium, where I grew up, they make a version of this with chicken as well.  My mother perfected the recipe finding that it was a delicious way to trick her daughters into eating fish. Alas, she did not pass down the recipe so, I’ve adapted ones from my two favorite Belgium cookbooks.


3 Tablespoon of sweet butter

3 large leeks, white part only, cut into julienne strips

2 shallots, finely minced

3 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips

2 ribs of celery, cut into julienne strips

½ celery root, cut into julienne strips

3 cups fish stock (most fish stores carry this)

1 cup dry white wine

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dry thyme (or 1 Tablespoon fresh)

Pinch of saffron threads (optional)

2 pounds of firm-fleshed white fish, cut into 1-inch cubes, such as perch, turbot, cod, halibut or monkfish (which I usually use as it is forgiving if cooked too long!)

1 cup heavy cream

3 large egg yolks

2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely minced


Cooking Instructions:

1.       Heat the butter on a low flame in a large casserole or Dutch oven.  Add in all of the vegetables and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently so that they do not turn brown.

2.       Add the two liquids, thyme and saffron and simmer for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

3.       Add the fish and simmer uncovered for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

4.       In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and the egg yolks. Then, add a ladle of warm broth to temper the egg mixture to avoid curdling later.  Add to the casserole, mix together and allow to reheat at a low temperature.

5.       Add back the fish and allow to heat up for a minute or two.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve guests directly from the Dutch oven.  (Why dirty another serving dish?)

Serve in warmed soup bowls along with small, boiled potatoes.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Wine recommendations:  Muscadet, Chablis or a non-wood-aged Chardonnay.