Maltese Aljotta

The fish soup known as Aljotta was born in Malta. Malta has two main properties of note. Firstly, it’s a beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Secondly, the population is predominantly Roman Catholic, and as catholics the Maltese observe Lent – a 40 day period in which you give up luxuries such as meat. It’s natural then that the Maltese would look to the sea for nutrition during this period. That way, they kept eating delicious food while still making a sacrifice. Everyone wins, right?

This fish soup is amongst the easiest to make, and it requires easily accessible ingredients. If you can get your hands on tomatoes, onions, and fish, you’re good to go. It’s cooked in a single pot, so don’t sweat it, there’s little clean up involved! But the best part of this fish soup recipe is that you can cook it using small fish which can be purchased responsibly and are usually caught in a sustainable manner.

Mackerel for fish soup
Few of these fellas will make a soup to kill for

As for the exact type of fish, I personally recommend making it with Bogue (Vopi) fish.
Not only does it have a cute taxonomical name, Boops Boops, but it has delicate flesh with subtle flavours which make it perfect for a soup. Alternatively you can substitute it with other small fish. Comber, and Mackerel are great replacements. If you live in the Mediterranean you should refer to the handy guide over at fish4tomorrow. It’ll help you pick sustainable fish – that way you can be good to your stomach AND the environment.

If you are unable to get smaller fish, you can always substitute with a larger one. Just keep in mind that you want to be able to fit the head and tail into your cooking pot, as those pieces will impart a lot of flavour.


  • 1kg / 2lbs and 3 oz of small fish such as Bogue or Mackerel
  • 1 White onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Fennel, sliced thinly. Keep the fronds (optional)
  • 2 Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 can of peeled tomatoes
  • 2tbsp of tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • handful of flat Parsley
  • 2tbsp Olive oil
  • 1.5l / 7 cups water
  • 100gr / 4.5oz rice


  • Add olive oil to a large cooking pot on medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer add the white onion. Fry until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and fennel (keep the fennel fronds aside), and fry for another 2 minutes.
  • Now throw in the tomato paste, tomatoes, and the water. Crush the peeled tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you stir. Bring it to the boil.
  • Lower it down to a simmer, throw in the fish, and begin to stir carefully. You want to avoid breaking up the fish. It will take around 8 minutes for your fish to cook through.
  • Pull the fish out of the soup and, once it’s cool enough to handle, pull the meat away from the fish. Discard the bones, head, and tail. Throw the rest back into the soup.
  • Add the rice and cook in the soup.
  • Once the rice is cooked, season with the lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. Serve with flat parsley and the fennel fronds sprinkled on top.