This excellent, ancient recipe from Provence excites huge passion and interest. Bouillabaisse consists of fragrant fish chunks poached in a saffron-enhanced broth. The dish is served as two courses. First the broth is spooned over toasted bread croutes topped with rouille sauce, which enriches the soup; next the fish itself is eaten. It is undoubtedly a triumph, so do devote several hours to making it.


50 ml extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions, quartered

2 leeks, cut into 5 cm chunks

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 large red tomatoes, skinned, quartered and deseeded

a bunch of fresh thyme, about 50 g

1 fennel bulb, quartered

20 cm strip of orange zest

2 litres boiling water

1 kg mixed fish fillets such as John Dory, red gurnard, red snapper, sea bass and grey mullet, cut into 4 cm chunks

1 kg mixed shellfish, such as small crabs, mussels, clams and prawns

a large pinch of saffron threads

500 g boiled new potatoes

1 tablespoon Pernod

4 tablespoons harissa paste or other hot chilli paste

1 baguette, sliced and oven-toasted to make croutes


6-8 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks

220 ml extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


To make the aioli, put the garlic, salt, egg and egg yolks in a food processor and blend until creamy. Gradually pour in the olive oil until the mixture is thick and emulsified. Add the lemon juice and blend briefly to combine. Set aside.

Heat half the olive oil in a large, flameproof casserole, add the onions, leeks, garlic and tomatoes and saute until golden and wilted. Add the thyme, fennel and orange zest. Add the boiling water and the remaining oil, then add the fish and shellfish (except the mussels or clams) and half the saffron.

Return to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the fish is opaque. Add the mussels and clams, if using, and cook for 3-4 minutes until they open. Discard any that don’t.

Pour the pan contents through a colander into a large bowl. Lift out the fish into a large, heated tureen or serving dish. Using a slotted spoon, press down on the onions, fennel, thyme and tomatoes in the colander, then discard them.

Pour the broth back into the rinsed pan, bring to the boil and cook over very high heat for 5 minutes until emulsified, then whisk in half the aioli. Add the hot potatoes and stir in the Pernod. Pour about a quarter of the mixture over the fish.

Put a croute on the side of each soup bowl, then add a generous spoonful of aioli to each. Mix the remaining aioli with the harissa and remaining saffron to create a scarlet rouille sauce. Add a spoonful of rouille to the croutes. Ladle hot soup into each dish.

When the soup is finished, serve the fish and hot potatoes with any remaining aioli and rouille.

makes 4-6 servings


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