Malta is a devoutly Catholic country, hence the popularity of this soup during the Lenten season. Using the whole fish—head and tail included—will add flavor to the soup.
- 3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- Leaves from 3 sprigs each basil, mint, and marjoram
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3⁄4 lb. white potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 1⁄2 cup peas
- 6 slices country-style bread
- 1 (2 1⁄2-lb.) whole meaty fish, such as pompano or porgy, cleaned and cut into 3 pieces
- Heat 3 tbsp. of the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and 6 cups water. Tear basil and mint leaves into pieces, then add to saucepan with marjoram leaves, saving a bit of each for garnish. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and cook 20 minutes.
- Add potatoes and cook until tender and slightly falling apart, about 15 minutes. Add fish and cook until firm, about 10 minutes. Toss in peas for the last 3 minutes of cooking.
- Take fish from pot with a slotted spoon, allow to cool a bit, and remove head, tail, skin, and bones. Return flesh and juices to pot.
- Fry bread slices in remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, turning once. Ladle soup into individual bowls, garnish with herbs, and serve with fried bread.