Global Gourmet: Catalan Cim i Tomba

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Cim i Tomba is a popular fish soup that you can find in the seaside village of Tossa de Mar on the in Costa Brava in Catalunya, on the coast of Spain.

We tasted this soup for the first time while visiting Tossa de Mar. Being right on the coastline, Tossa is a fishing village. Before modern fishing techniques were introduced to the area, the fisherman would go out in their small boats to get their daily catch and they’d spend long hours at sea. So they would take some basic ingredients out on the boat with them to make their lunch.

cim i tomba

Using a small stove and an iron pot, they would cook up a fish stew, called Cim i Tomba. Although this lunch tradition doesn’t occur anymore, Cim I Tomba is still a much-loved dish and is often on the menu in Tossa’s restaurants.

While you can certainly find recipes for this dish online, they are mostly written in Catalan. We were given a recipe for the stew from a local who makes it for her family on Sundays. It’s hearty, warming and delicious. Perfect for a meal in the fall, or as a starter.

» Our Global Gourmet recipe series is designed to bring the foods we loved while traveling into our own kitchens and onto our own dinner tables. 

cim i tomba
(Photo by Savored Journeys)

What Ingredients You Need

Since this was a simple stew made by the fisherman who didn’t have a lot of ingredients on the boat to cook with, there are not a lot of ingredients required.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fish – A firm fish, like hake or monkfish works best. Cod can be used if others aren’t available. The fish needs to stand up to the cooking, so it doesn’t fall apart in the soup.
  • Fish stock – The fisherman would use a freshly caught fish and stew the fish bones to make the stock for the soup. You can either make your own stock or use a store-bought fish stock (as we’ve done in this recipe).
  • Onions – White or yellow onions work well.
  • Potatoes – Use any type of potato you have on hand. Doesn’t matter really.
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & pepper

How to Make Cim i Tomba

The base of this stew is a hearty fish broth. You can make your own fish broth by simmering together fish bones with seasonings, vegetables, and water. It makes a great base for soups and risottos. Here’s a recipe to get you started making your own.

I have to admit to being slightly lazy in that I prefer to use store-bought fish broth for this recipe. If you use a good brand, it has a lot of flavor and it saves a whole lot of time. I’m all for “easy” in the kitchen.

Chop the onions and potatoes into small pieces. I prefer smaller chunks because it makes the soup easy to eat, but if you like larger chunks of potato in your soup, cut them bigger. In the end, I also mash up some of the potatoes to thicken the soup, so small cubes are perfect.

Saute the onions over medium heat in a bit of olive oil in a large pot. When when they are translucent, add the potatoes and the stock to the pot.

Cover the pot and allow it to simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the potato are fork tender. You don’t want to overcook the potatoes, because they’ll start to crumble and thicken the soup, which shouldn’t happen until after you add the fish.

Simmer the onions in olive oil, then add the broth
Simmer the onions in olive oil, then add the broth (Photo by Savored Journeys)

For the fish, I add one 3 oz filet for each serving of soup. This makes it full of fish, which is just the way you want it. This recipe makes 4 servings, so we’ve used 12 ounces of fish.

Make sure the soup is at a low simmer and not boiling. Place the fish filet in the hot soup and continue cooking for another 5-8 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

Next, add the aioli, gently stir to mix, then allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the fish to the broth
Add the fish to the broth (Photo by Savored Journeys)

Once the fish is cooked, remove about a cup of the potatoes and mashed them up, then returned them to the stew. This makes a thicker stew, rather than soup. If you like a thinner soup, you don’t need to mash the potato.

As I mentioned before, there are many different versions of this dish. Some recipes include bell peppers, tomatoes or other vegetables. You can adjust it and vary it according to your tastes and preferences.

We ate our soup with other Catalan products, like buttifara (sausage) and frisols (beans). It can definitely be eaten alone, but when there are so many great local products to try, we figured we might as well build a feast!

Feast of Catalan products, including our Cim i Tomba soup
Feast of Catalan products, including our Cim i Tomba soup (Photo by Savored Journeys)

Pairing Cim i Tomba with Wine

There are a number of wines that could be paired with this soup, due to its heartiness. Generally, potato soups, or lighter fish stews pair well with crisp, dry whites that are intense, with enough acidity to stand up to the garlic.

Grenache Blanc is a varietal that can be found in the growing regions of Catalonia, like Emporda, where the grape is called Garnacha Blanca. We’ve chosen it as the pairing for this soup because in Catalonia they strive to use as many local products as possible.

You’re eating a soup with all local ingredients and so you should drink a local wine, as well. While many of the great Grenache Blancs you find in Catalonia are not widely distributed outside of the region, you can find many others from around the world, like France and California, so it should be relatively easy to find. If not, a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will also pair well.

cim i tomba
Yield: 6 servings

Cim i Tomba

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This soup is referred to as Fisherman's Stew in the coastal region of Catalan. It contains fish, potatoes, and lots of garlic.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 lb red or russet potatoes, chopped
  • 1 quart high-quality fish stock
  • 12 oz fish (something firm like hake, monkfish, cod)
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Optional: bell pepper, tomato

Instructions

  1. Chop onions and potatoes.
  2. Saute onions in olive oil until transluscent. Add potatoes and fish stock.
  3. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  4. Add fish filets and simmer for an additional 5-8 minutes until fish is cooked through.
  5. Mix together the mayonnaise and garlic. Add it to the fish stew and stir gently to mix. Simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes to incorporate the aioli.
  6. Serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1 bowl

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 538Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 146mgSodium: 835mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 48g

A big thank you to the Costa Brava Tourism Board for introducing us to Tossa de Mar and this Cim i Tomba stew. See all the coverage of our trip to Costa Brava in Catalunya. (As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own honest reflection of our travel experiences).

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Global Gourmet: Learn how to make Tossa's Cim i Tomba at home
Global Gourmet: Learn how to make Tossa’s Cim i Tomba at home
Global Gourmet: Catalan Cim i Tomba

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