Cornish Red Mullet Soup with Green Olive Tapenade

Other than bouillabaisse this is one the most luxurious fish soups you can make. You could also make it with gurnard, or a mixture of red mullet and gurnard. We make the tapenade with the big meaty Spanish green olives called Gordal Reina, from the quality Spanish food importers Brindisa, which have a wonderfully subtle and unique flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg whole red mullet, preferably Cornish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped
  • 10 large over-ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 300 ml white wine
  • 100 ml Ricard or Pernod
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Squeeze of orange juice
  • Slices of Fresh country bread, to serve

For the Green Olive Tapenade

  • Large handful of stoned green olives (see above)
  • small tin of anchovies in oil, drained
  • 1 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed
  • Splash of olive oil

Method

First make the tapenade: put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Cut the whole red mullet into three lengths. Don’t worry about removing the head and guts, as these are integral to the flavour of the soup.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the pieces of fish until golden in colour, then take out and reserve. Add chopped vegetables, including the tomatoes, together with the garlic and rosemary, to the pan and sweat until soft, but do not allow them to colour much.

Add the mullet back to the pan with the alcohol, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 2–3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil again, skim and simmer for 18–20 minutes.

Pass the soup through a mouli sieve, extracting all the juices. You could blend in a liquidizer, but I find the result not as good.

Now pass the soup through a very fine sieve. Return to the heat, bring to the boil and skim. Lower the heat and reduce at a good soup consistency.

Finish with salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze each of lemon juice and orange juice.

Serve with the tapenade spread on slices of fresh country bread.

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