Ah oui! There is a real French vibe flowing through the pages this month and the guys asked me to keep that thread going with some ‘Haute cuisine’ of my own.
That got me thinking back to the many summers Sam and I used to spend all over the South West of France as we travelled from one contest to the next.
There was one dish that was so simple (and so cheap!) yet amazingly rich, with subtle variations and deep layers of flavour, that it quickly became an addiction, as well as a tradition and a measuring standard for the quality of pretty much every restaurant, bar, or bistro we went to: the humble ‘soup de poisson’. Yeah, okay, fish soup – but always with essential extras! Read on, and treat yourself!
For the rouille
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 egg yolks (get the best free range eggs you can)
- 150ml (5fl oz) olive oil
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 tsp tomato purée
- Lemon juice
What you will need
- 2 bunches of spring onion
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 3 leeks, sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 500g (1lb 2oz) fresh tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- A good pinch of saffron stamens
- A broad strip of orange rind
- ½ tbsp tomato purée
- 8 peppercorns
- 2kg (4lb 8oz) fish trimmings and bones, including heads, washed. (Ask your fishmonger or at the supermarket fish counter for trimmings and heads from white fish, non-oily ones. You can either make a thin soup or you can add extra fresh fish at the end so that you have something more chunky and filling.)
- 2.4 litres (4 pints) water
- 450g (1lb) skinned fish fillets such as bream, bass, haddock, mullet, or gurnard, cut into chunks
- Grated gruyère cheese and baguette croûtes (small slices of pan fried bread or toast) to serve
- Heat the olive oil in a very large heavy-bottomed saucepan, and add the onion, leek, fennel, and celery. Cook over a medium to low-heat until the vegetables are soft, but not coloured. Add the garlic and tomatoes, and cook for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.
- Now add the fennel seeds, saffron, orange rind, tomato purée, peppercorns, and fish trimmings, and cover with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring every so often.
- Pour the entire contents of the pan – liquid, bones, veggies – through a sieve into another large pan. Give the remaining bones and veg a good pressing to get out as much flavour as possible, then throw them away.
- Bring the mixture up to simmering point, and poach the fish fillets in it for about 4 minutes. Leave the soup to cool a little then purée in a blender. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary. Don’t forget, the rouille is pretty punchy in the flavour game, so don’t go too heavy with the soup.
- Put the garlic into a pestle and mortar with some salt, and grind it to a purée. (The salt helps to grind it all together.) Transfer to a bowl and mix in the yolks, then start adding the oil drop by drop, beating all the time (using a wooden spoon). The mixture should thicken as you add the oil. Stir in the cayenne. Add the tomato purée, then lemon juice to taste. Add more lemon juice or cayenne if you want.
- Serve the soup hot with bowls of grated gruyère, croutes, and the rouille on the side, and add them to the soup in excessive measures to enjoy this tasty, classic French number. Bon app’ mes amis!
This article was originally published in Wavelength issue 248. Be the first to get our articles in print and online by subscribing here.