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Sebzeli Uskumru Çorbası – A Turkish Mackerel Soup Recipe

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It’s the perfect time of year, here in Fethiye. Pleasantly sunny, but not baking hot, and the nights are getting cooler, aiding a more comfortable night’s sleep.

It’s trekking weather – and it’s cooking weather.

We know autumn has well and truly kicked in for a lot of you who are reading elsewhere in Turkey and beyond – and so, for the first recipe in our Turkish Food & Recipes Feature Week (our first course), we’ve prepared a Turkish favourite – soup.

(This recipe is taken from page 66 of the Turkish cookery book, ‘The Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Özcan Ozcan, and is republished with permission of publishers, Tuttle Publishing. All photos are our own and the recipe is written in our own words).

Turkish Recipe For Sebzeli Uskumru Çorbası (Mackerel & Vegetable Soup)

Translated into English, what we are actually having for our first course is mackerel and vegetable soup. It’s a hearty soup and, if you’re a fan of seafood, you’ll love this. This soup tastes of the sea!

Turkish Food - Fish Stock
Make your fish stock using the carcasses from your mackerel

We’re using fresh mackerel for this recipe. The intense flavours in the soup come from the stock, so take your time to make a good fish stock first, using the carcasses of your fresh mackerel.

(We actually used bonito for our soup – the same family – as there was no mackerel on Fethiye fish market on the day we went.)

For the fish stock:

  • Skin and fillet your mackerel (you can ask the fish monger to do this for you but make sure you ask for the carcasses too) and add the carcasses to a large pan of water (around 2.5 litres).
  • Now you can add whatever herbs and vegetables you like to your stock. We added 1 chopped onion; 1 cubed carrot; stems from a root of celeriac; a handful of fresh dill and parsley; salt and pepper to taste. (Bay and thyme would be good additions, too.)
  • Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for one hour.
  • Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a bowl.

For the mackerel soup:

Mackerel Soup Recipe
Remove the flesh from the mackerel bones
  • Cut your mackerel into chunks and add to a large pan along with your fish stock.
  • Bring it to the boil and then simmer for around 10 minutes. Now remove the cooked mackerel with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Remove stock from the heat.

(The recipe says to finely chop the mackerel but we chose to leave some meaty chunks for a more broth-like texture.)

Mackerel Soup Ingredients
Prepare your vegetables for the mackerel soup
  • Now add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan and add a finely chopped onion and 4 grated garlic cloves. Cook gently until they’re softened.
  • Pour your fish stock over the onions and garlic along with 2 diced potatoes, 2 diced carrots, 2 celery sticks (we used celeriac stems) and 3 finely chopped tomatoes. (The recipe suggests skinning and deseeding the tomatoes but we prefer a more rustic soup so we didn’t bother with this.)
  • Bring all of this to the boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened.
  • Now add the mackerel chunks, 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of chopped dill, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh lemon is best if you can get it), salt and pepper and…yes, a generous helping of chilli flakes. (The recipe actually suggests half a teaspoon of red pepper but we added red chilli flakes to suit our taste.)
  • Cook for 5 minutes and then…
Mackerel Soup, Uskumru Çorbası
A serving of Turkish mackerel soup

…ladle your soup into large bowls and serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Turkish Mackerel & Vegetable Soup – Afternotes:

  • You can make your fish stock whenever you like – it keeps up to a week in the fridge or you can freeze it, too. If it’s ready-prepared, the soup is quicker and easier to make.
  • The mackerel chunks themselves actually lose their taste. The strong seafood flavours infuse into the stock and your mackerel chunks contribute to the texture.
  • If you are having this soup as a starter, the measurements in the recipe will easily serve six people.
  • We absolutely love this soup and have already made it twice. It’s a filling broth that we’ve eaten as a main meal, two days in a row. We got 4 large servings from it.

So, this is our starter for our Turkish Food & Recipes Feature Week. Tomorrow, we will have the recipe for the main course…Hünkar Beğendi.

Afiyet Olsun!

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Turkey's For Life

Wednesday 26th of September 2012

@ Bellini: It is. Can't wait for the even colder weather for more Turkish soups. :)

@ BacktoBodrum: It's just like other fish actually but you get the stronger 'taste of the sea.' Nicer than it sounds. :)

Backto Bodrum

Wednesday 26th of September 2012

Thanks for the recipe. I've never tried mackerel in soup.


Wednesday 26th of September 2012

This sounds so comforting and delicious for the upcoming cooler days.

Turkey's For Life

Wednesday 26th of September 2012

@ Laurie: Barry didn't do his stock for so long but the recipe says that and we also checked a Rick Stein book and he does his for an hour. I guess it depends on how intense you want the vegetable flavours to be.


Wednesday 26th of September 2012

Does the recipe call for an hours cooking of the stock ? I've aways found that fish stock of any kind does not need more than 20 minuites cooking.

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