Last Updated on August 22, 2021 by Nazmin Sarker
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 onto many restaurant menus and, even if they do take it out of a jar, it is still a great pleasure to eat.
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. Often, you will be served 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 leftovers, use them 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 taste, 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
- ½ tablespoon coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
- 1 ½ 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
- ½-1 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
- ½-1 medium fresh red chili, de-seeded and roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 110ml (4 fl oz) olive oil
- Cut the fish into chunks that are roughly 5cm (2 inches) across. Set aside 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 it up to a 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 it 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 consumer reports 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.
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