Frith Street fish soup

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Not strictly speaking a classic fish soup, because I don’t include any puréed fish meat. There are two reasons for this: firstly, to purée the soup is a messy, prolonged and irritating process; secondly, the resulting soup is only delicious for a few hours as, if kept for even modest amounts of time, the suspended solids start to go off and shortly you will have something reminiscent of puréed tinned pilchards.

Over the years this tidied-up bouillabaisse has been a regular on the menu. When serving it, do not lazily omit the croûtons, rouille or cheese, or the whole point will be missed. Cooking these sorts of dishes is never quick; if you want to do them set time and money aside. There is nothing intrinsically difficult about them, they are merely time-consuming.

Bruno Loubet, one of London’s finest chefs, paid my fish soup a great compliment when he went on record saying it was the only authentic-tasting one he had ever had in Britain.

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 litre Frith Street Fish Broth
  • 400 g cod fillets, lightly salted overnight in the fridge, then briefly rinsed before using
  • 300 g mussels, picked over, rejecting any open or broken ones
  • 300 g peeled tiger prawns (if they came with heads, shells or both, use these in the broth)
  • tbsp potato flour

Optional Extras

  • palourde clams instead of mussels
  • filleted skate or monkfish instead of cod
  • 150 g squid, finely sliced
  • 1 scallop per person, shelled

Rouille

  • 1 egg
  • tbsp harissa (North African chilli paste, use more if you like your food hot)
  • 1 small tin anchovies, drained of their oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • approx. 200 ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Frith Street Fish Broth, hot

Croûtons and Cheese

  • 1 baguette or French loaf
  • a little olive oil
  • 100 g Gruyère cheese

Method

Making the Rouille

Put all the ingredients for the rouille except the oil and fish broth in a food processor and run it until a smooth purée is obtained. Add the oil in a slow steady stream with the machine running at medium speed. Keep adding oil until you have a thick mayonnaise-like mixture. Considerably more oil than stated may be needed: exact amounts are difficult to predict. Lastly add the hot fish broth and whirl a little; the rouille will be slightly diluted by the heat but it will also be stabilised.

Preparing the Croûtons and Cheese

Slice the loaf into thin rounds, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with oil. Either bake them in a medium oven – about 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 – until golden and crisp, or grill like toast, turning them half-way. Grate the Gruyère and refrigerate until needed.

Making the Soup

At this stage you should have prepared the base broth, rouille, Gruyère and croûtons. Assemble all the fish and a big deep serving dish or tureen, which must be warmed.

Put the fish broth to heat in a large, preferably wide pan. It should come to a boil and might need a skim. While the broth is heating, slice the cod into 1 cm thick slices with the skin attached. Dissolve the potato flour in an equal quantity of water, and when the broth comes to a boil add the slaked (yes, that is the correct word) flour and stir. Simmer for a minute or so then add the mussels and return to the boil. Add the pieces of cod, turn the heat down a little, and simmer until the mussels are open. Do not stir too much, or the cod will disintegrate (it might anyway, don’t panic if it does). As soon as the mussels are open, add the prawns and stir them in, they will need about 1 minute to cook. Transfer the whole lot to your heated serving dish.

This stage of the dish must only be done at the last moment, it only takes about a quarter of an hour including heating the broth.

Serving

Serve in the dish or tureen at the table. Ladle into individual soup plates (these should be warm as well). Tell your guests to float 2 croûtons in their soup, then to splodge some rouille on these and finally to sprinkle sparingly with the grated Gruyère. A spare bowl in the centre of the table for the mussel shells is not a bad idea.

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