THE recent cold snap saw us reaching for a hearty French bouillabaisse recipe to marry with a red mullet dish we were creating in the kitchen. The aroma of this stew is unforgettable, especially if you are lover of seafood. Marseille is considered the mecca of the bouillabaisse and I am happy to share with you my recipe that has travelled with me for years.
This soup is so important to the folk of Marseille, so much so there are festivals and celebrations around this soup. I am yet to experience such an event but I do remember watching Keith Floyd and Rick stein on TV tucking into bowls of soup with envy.
Up to seven varieties of fish are used in the traditional recipe, coming straight off the boat and into the pot. Spices such as saffron are added to give depth and the colour, and then some orange peel is used to balance the flavour. Thanks to early traders and explorers, French cuisine is influenced by these spices and combinations of flavours, especially those of north Africa. Last year I experienced these combinations in Morocco when making fish tagines.
Traditionally bouillabaisse is served with lashings of rouille (breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron, chillies, mustard and olive oil), a thick mayonnaise like sauce which adds depth and contrast to this hearty soup.
Most of the seafood in my recipe can be found in major supermarkets unless you have a local fish monger who can order the seven varieties for you if you dare. The best thing about this stew is the fish we use is high up on the sustainability ladder and the tastiest.
To cook this soup we need a heavy based pot with a lid, a blender for blitzing the soup and a large strainer to pass the soup.
This recipe may seem to be a long process but with the snow on the ground and maybe more on its way, this is another great winter warmer to be enjoyed with mates.
Happy cooking — bon appetit!
Chris’s French Provencal bouillabaisse treat
What you need:
1 small onion chopped into 3 cm dice
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 bulb of fennel chopped into 3cm dice
2 large plum tomatoes
1 tsp tomato purée
6 small new potatoes, sliced thinly
pinch of saffron threads — found at good supermarket
3 strips of orange zest
good splash of olive oil
2 fillets of gurnard or red mullet
2 small fillets of seabass
couple of handfuls of black mussels
4-5 large tiger prawns
maldon sea salt to season
pinch of cayenne pepper
For the rouille:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
100ml of vegetable oil or light olive oil
½ tbsp tomato purée
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Maldon sea salt
What to do:
– Put the onion, garlic, fennel, tomatoes, tomato paste, potatoes, saffron, orange zest and olive oil into your large heavy based pot
– Sweat over a low heat for about five minutes til the vegetables become soft
– Add in enough water to just cover the vegetables, bring to the boil and cook briskly for around five minutes or until the potatoes are almost cooked through.
– Throw in the mussels and cook for one or two minutes
– Put the fillets of red mullet and sea bream on top, cover, turn the heat right down and cook very gently for 10 minutes
– Make the rouille – whisk together the egg yolk and mustard with a little salt in a bowl
– Continue to whisk slowly drizzling in first the vegetable oil until you have a thick mayonnaise. Stir in the tomato paste and cayenne pepper. Add salt to taste and set aside
– Once the red mullet and sea bream is cooked, lift it onto a warmed serving plate. Stir the rouille into the remaining shellfish mixture, season well with salt and cayenne and serve