Fish Soup with Rouille

We have no equivalents here to the puréed fish soups of the French Mediterranean coast These soupes de poisson provençale are usually served with croûtes of oven-toasted bread spread with rouille, a vigorous garlic saffron and red pepper mayonnaise. This recipe is not far removed from bourride and bouillabaisse, which are fish stews, but shares many of the same ingredients and aromatic favourings, such as dried orange peel and fennel. Most Mediterranean recipes call for the fish to be sautéed in olive oil, but I cannot see any benefits to be gained from so doing.

Throughout this book you will have seen references to freezing white fish heads, bones and pieces for your next fish soup’. Well, this is it.

Ingredients

  • 900g/2lb mixed white fish, heads removed, cleaned and scaled
  • 900g/2lb heads, bones and scraps of white fish
  • 1 small hen crab
  • 2 onions
  • ½ fennel bulb
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6tbsp olive oil
  • ½bottle (375ml/13fl oz) of dry white wine
  • about 575ml/1pt passata
  • 5cm/2 in piece of orange peel, preferably dried
  • bouquet garni of bay leaf thyme, parsley stalks and celery, tied with string
  • 8 saffron strands
  • salt and pepper

For the Rouille

Utensils

  • 2 large saucepans
  • sieve
  • mouli or food processor
  • brush
  • baking tray

Method

Mise en Place

First make the Rouille: pour 1 tablespoon of boiling water over the saffron strands and leave to steep for 5 minutes. Make the Aïoli Garlic Mayonnaise, but using half the quantities. Add the cayenne or harissa and the saffron liquid at the end. Leave to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before tasting, only then adjusting the seasoning.

Prepare the fish: remove gills and fins from the heads, rinse in plenty of cold running water and reserve. Scale the fish.

Prepare the crab: in the restaurant we batter it to death, but more squeamish folk can boil it in salted water for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool before breaking into small pieces. Take care to smash the legs and claws as these have good flavour. This is messy and it is important to save all the juices that are produced. Scrape these and any bits into a bowl.

Prepare the vegetables: dice the onion, fennel and garlic.

Cooking

Put the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over a low heat Sweat the vegetables in the olive oil. Pour over the white wine and tomato passata. Cover with bones and heads and the crab pieces with their juices and then lay the fish on top, add the orange peel and bouquet garni and 2.25 litres/4pt water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer.

Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and its flesh flakes easily off the bones. Strain the broth into another saucepan through a sieve, discarding heads, bones, orange peel and bouquet garni.

Pull off the skin from the fish and flake the flesh away from the bones. Purée the flesh and vegetables in a food processor or put through a mouli.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas3.

Put a sieve over the fish broth and squeeze the purée through it to release the liquid into the broth. Reserve the pulp.

Cut the baguette into slices and put these on an oiled baking tray. Brush the tops of the slices with more olive oil and bake in the oven until dry and lightly browned.

About 10 minutes before serving, bring the broth to a boil and bubble to reduce until it has a good flavour. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the reserved fish pulp. Taste for seasoning and put in the saffron strands. Simmer for 5 minutes more, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To Serve

  • 1 French baguette
  • olive oil
  • 115g/4oz freshly grated Gruyère cheese

Serving

Serve from a warmed tureen, with the croûtes, Rouille and grated Gruyère all served separately. If any of your guests have never had this classic dish, tell them to ladle broth into their bowl, spread Rouille on a croûte or two, pressing Gruyère on the top and then float these on the surface.

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