Classic Style Fish Stock

30 minutes

2 L



  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, finely diced
  • 1 dried bay leaves
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and stems
  • 1 tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 1 Large fish heads from cod, groper, tarakihi, gills removed, and wiped clean of any blood
  • 1kg fish frames (bones) from cod, sole, flounder, groper, tarakihi, cut into pieces and wiped clean of any blood
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (optional) 
  • about 2 Litres very hot or boiling water
  • Sea salt

Montford Estate 2020 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc


  1. In a heavy based stock pot 
  2. Place the fish head on the vegetables and stack the fish frames evenly on top 
  3. Pour in the wine, cover the pot tightly, and let the bones sweat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they have turned completely white
  4. Add enough very hot or boiling water to just barely cover the bones. Give the mixture a gentle stir and allow the broth to come to a simmer
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, carefully skimming off any white foam that comes to the surface, trying not to take any herbs, spices, or vegetables with it. (Using a ladle and a circular motion, push the foam from the centre to the outside of the pot, where it is easy to remove)
  6. Remove the pot from the stove, stir the stock again, and allow it to steep for 10 minutes
  7. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and season lightly with salt. If you are not going to be using the stock within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible
  8. Cover the stock after it is thoroughly chilled (it will have a light jellied consistency) and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

This recipe uses a technique called "sweating" to extract maximum flavor from every ingredient. Although sweating adds a step, this stock is still effortless to make and takes only five minutes longer to cook than the traditional fish stock.

I begin by sautéing a very thinly diced mirepoix (onions, celery, and fennel) with herbs and peppercorns. I then layer fish heads and frames (bones) on top of these vegetables, add a little white wine, and cover the pot. As the heads and bones "sweat" (and steam), the proteins are drawn out. If you peek, you will actually see little white droplets of flavorful protein coagulating on the surface of the bones. After the sweating is completed (about 15 minutes), I cover the bones with water and simmer them briefly. I let the mixture steep for 10 minutes before straining it, producing a stock that is full-flavored and gelatinous. The fish heads are what give this stock its marvelous jellied consistency, which in turn gives a luscious mouth feel to the chowder broth.

Note: with a few subtle changes to ingredients the flavor profile can change to suit other dishes. This stock works well as a chowder base or a rich sauce, but by removing the butter, bay leaves & parsley, also removing the sweating process you can add ginger root, coriander, kombu or dashi for Asian style dishes.