Provencal Fish Soup
I love this intensely flavored, smooth, provencal fish brick-red soup, which comes with little garlicky croutons and rouille, a peppery thick sauce, to stir into it.
It is the most reviving ambrosia after a long day doing anything at all.
It’s made its way on to many restaurant menus and, even if they do take it out of a jar, it is still a great pleasure to eat.
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It also happens to be a great pleasure to make and, though it requires a few leaps of faith if you are not familiar with the recipe, there is nothing difficult about it at all.
Two things are crucial
The first is a good mix of fish, amongst them, for preference, a brace of rascasse for the most authentic of flavors, or at least a couple of fine red mullet for the nest best thing.
Some recipes sanction water as the liquid but I think it is essential to use good fish stock.
To give depth to what is a smooth, thin soup. There are several different versions of rouille. (See details discuss vegetable soup)
Often, you will be served a garlicky, saffron and pepper mayonnaise but the original is based on bread and remains, to my mind, by far the best choice.
If you have any leftover, use it as a dip with prawns or spoon it over baked or boiled potatoes. Delicious.
- 1.8kg (4 lb) mixed fish (rascasse, if you can get them, and /or a few red mullet, but also conger eel, wrasse, monkfish, gurnard, sea bream or any fish that is not oily)
- 250g (9 oz) shell-on raw prawns
- 110ml (4 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- Â½ tablespoon coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
- 1 Â½ X 400g (14 oz) tins of tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomatoes
- 3 fresh parsley sprigs, and 2 bay leaves, tied together with string
- juice of 1 orange
- 1 strip of dried orange zest
- 2.5 liters (4 pints) Fish Stock
- generous pinch of saffron threads
- 3 tablespoons Pernod
- Â½-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and plenty of pepper
- 8-12 slices of French bread
- olive oil
- freshly grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
- 2 X 2.5cm (1 inch) thick slices of French bread
- pinch of saffron strands
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 red pepper, grilled and skinned
- Â½-1 medium fresh red chili, de-seeded and roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- Â¼ teaspoon salt
- 110ml (4 fl oz) olive oil
- Cut the fish into chunks that are roughly 5cm (2 inches) across. Set aside with the prawns.
- Put the oil in a large pan and add the vegetables, garlic, and coriander seeds.
- Stir to coat in oil and then cover and sweat over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
- Cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching.
- Now add the stock, bring up to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add the saffron, Pernod and cayenne and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Cool slightly and fish out the bundle of herbs, then liquidize the whole contents of the pan ( yes, including the prawns in their shells) to a smoothish sludge.
- Now pass the soup through a fine blade of a vegetable mill or rub through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing through all the juice.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a generous grinding of black pepper. Meanwhile, for the garnish, preheat the oven to 200’C/400’F/Gas Mark 6.
- Brush the slices of French bread generously with olive oil, then bake until golden brown and pass around as the soup is served, along with a bowl of rouille and another filled with grated cheese, so that everyone can help themselves.
- Tear the bread up roughly and place in a bowl. Add enough water barely to cover and leave for 5-10 minutes.
- Put the saffron in a small bowl and spoon over the hot water. Leave to steep De-seed the pepper and chop roughly.
- Place either in a mortar or the bowl of a food processor with the chili and garlic.
- Drain the bread and squeeze out the water with your hands. Add to the pepper and chili, seasoning with the salt.
- Pound or process to a smooth paste and then gradually work in the olive oil as if making mayonnaise (though you can afford to be a little more heavy-handed).
- Stir in the saffron and its water, then taste and adjust the seasoning.