A whole salmon can undoubtedly prove to be a pretty expensive purchase, wherever you are in the world, and particularly if you are talking about a wild rather than farmed fish. Occasionally, however, it is possible to buy what is essentially a salmon carcass at a fraction of the cost. This purchase would consist of the head, tail and backbone of the fish, from which the prime fillets have already been removed. If you are very lucky, these bones will still have a fair amount of flesh on them and you will have secured the perfect base ingredient for a tasty salmon stock and subsequent soup.

Salmon, Broccoli and Stilton Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salmon, broccoli and Stilton soup

It's worth pointing out that if you do unexpectedly encounter the opportunity to purchase a salmon carcass such as the one used in this recipe but don't want to make the soup that day, it can be frozen very effectively for up to two or three months. It should subsequently be fully defrosted in the fridge overnight before being used in the preparation of your soup.

Ingredients (Serves 6 to 8)

Salmon Bones
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salmon head, tail and bones

  • Head, tail and backbone of medium sized salmon
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 3 celery sticks
  • Leaves from inside of a celery bulb
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • 4 ounce piece of Stilton cheese


Celery and Carrots
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Carrots, celery sticks and leaves

You will need a large soup or stock pot for this recipe. It's unlikely that a conventional sized pot will be large enough. Begin by putting the salmon head, tail and bone in to the bottom of the pot. You can chop the backbone in to two or three pieces if this is necessary to ensure everything fits.

Poaching Salmon Bones
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Poaching salmon bones with vegetables and seasoning

Wash, top and tail the carrots and chop in to large chunks. It's not necessary to peel or even scrape them unless the outer skin is particularly badly damaged. Do likewise with the celery sticks and wash the celery leaves. Add all of this to the pot with the salmon, along with the whole black peppercorns and about a teaspoon of salt. Pour in approximately five pints of cold water (ensuring the salmon pieces are comfortably covered) and put the pot on to a high heat until it just begins to simmer and no more. Do not let it boil!

When the water reaches a gentle simmer, turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave to cool completely. This should take a minimum of one hour but very possibly longer.

Poached Salmon Bones
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Poached salmon head, tail and bones

When the poaching liquid is cool, use a large slotted spoon to remove the salmon pieces only to a large bowl. Leave everything else in the pot.

Salmon Bones and Flesh
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Salmon flesh is plucked clean from bones

Use your fingers to carefully separate all the salmon flesh from the skin and bones. Take your time doing this to ensure you don't leave any bones in the flakes of flesh and also to ensure you remove as much of the salmon from the bones as is possible. Discard the skin and return the bones to the pot. Bring back to a gentle simmer for half an hour. Fish stock does not require the lengthy simmering time as demanded by the likes of chicken or beef.

Unstrained Salmon Stock
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Prepared salmon stock is left to cool slightly prior to straining

Turn the heat off under the pot and leave for half an hour minimum to cool slightly. This will minimize the risks of you scalding yourself during the straining process.

Broccoli Heads
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Medium sized heads of fresh broccoli

Cut the individual florets from the heads of broccoli with a sharp knife and add to a colander for washing.

Broccoli Stalks
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Broccoli stalks

While many people would as a matter of course discard the broccoli stalks at this stage, they can very effectively be used in this type of recipe both to reduce waste and add extra flavor. It is important, however, to peel off their coarse outer skin prior to chopping them in to bite sized pieces.

Washing Broccoli
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Broccoli is washed under running cold water

Wash the broccoli in a colander under running cold water, in batches if necessary. Set a quarter of the florets aside for later use in the recipe.

Straining Salmon Stock
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Straining salmon stock

Use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the fish bones and larger vegetable pieces from the partially cooled stock. Line a fine sieve with a couple of sheets of kitchen paper and suspend it over a large bowl. Ladle the stock in to the sieve, changing the kitchen paper as necessary as it becomes clogged with fat molecules.

Salmon Stock
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Strained salmon stock is returned to washed pot

Rinse out your pot and carefully pour back in to it the strained stock.

Poaching Broccoli
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Broccoli is poached in salmon stock

Put the three-quarters portion of the broccoli florets and the chopped stems in the pot with the stock. Put the pot on to a high heat until the stock boils then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for a minimum half hour as it is never a good idea to blend boiling liquids in case of spills.

Blending Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Soup is blended in batches

With a large bowl or second pot on stand by, blend the developing soup in batches until completely smooth.

Chopped Broccoli added to Soup
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chopped remaining broccoli is added to soup

Fairly finely chop the remaining quarter portion of the broccoli. Pour the blended soup back in to your pot and add the chopped broccoli. Bring back to a simmer for two or three minutes. Stir in the salmon flesh and simmer for two more minutes just to ensure it is evenly heated through.

Stilton Cheese
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Preparing Stilton cheese for inclusion in soup

If you wish, the Stilton cheese can be roughly chopped and stirred through the soup immediately prior to service. Particularly, however, where the soup or some of it is to be reserved for later service, this will see the cheese melt in to the liquid and lose all its consistency. In this instance, the Stilton was sliced and a slice crumbled by hand in to each serving bowl before the hot soup was ladled over the top.