Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish stew, originating from a dish made by fishermen with unpopular fish that they had trouble selling. Anyone who tells you that a Bouillabaisse is anything more than a simple fish soup, a simple, rustic fish soup is telling you lies.
Bouillabaisse, like much French cuisine, has been elevated to ridiculous heights with all manner of rules applied; it must contain this, that and the other. Whatever! It's fish soup. Got it?
Seafood - whatever you have: haddock, smoked haddock, pollock, squid, prawns and scallops, for us
Stock - fish stock, chicken stock, whatever you have
Flavours - onion, leek, fennel, garlic, tarragon, star anise and olive oil; tomatoes, tomato purée, sea salt and black pepper
Veggies - why not? I went with a red pepper
Rouille - garlic, egg yolk, olive oil, sea salt and white pepper
Stock is the base of this soup. Some methods will use whole fish that don't want to be in the soup, boiled, blended and sieved. You can buy in a fish stock or even use a cube, but watch those ingredients.
I was lucky to be cooking some chicken pieces alongside for another day, which had finished, so had some lovely chicken stock and bones. I was also double-lucky to be preparing some other fresh fish for lunches, so had the trimmings, bones, heads and whatnot from them, too.
So, chicken stock, bones, fish pieces and some shredded leek greens, I boiled on for maybe 20 minutes to reduce the stock, sieved and set aside to add into the Bouillabaisse later.
In a large pan, soften some chopped onion, shredded leek whites, shredded fennel and garlic in olive oil. Toss in a stalk of tarragon and a couple of star anise. Keep the heat low and let the flavours meld.
Once soft, pour in a carton of chopped peppers along with a good dollop of tomato purée.
Add the stock and set to a high simmer, dropping in the fish pieces. Reserve the shellfish until near the end.
Reduce the liquor and allow the soup to thicken up. Drop in the shellfish within five minutes of serving - they'll take no time to cook through.
Simply, garlic mashed into a paste and let out with an egg yolk and some olive oil to make a mayonnaise, of sorts. Salt and pepper to taste.
Some rouille recipes include breadcrumbs. We don't need to. If you do need to thicken your soup, add some arrowroot directly to the soup at the time you add the shellfish.
Serve out into wide brimmed bowls with a good dollop of rouille in the middle.
We also had some Cheese Puffs alongside - cassava flour, grated cheese, egg, cream, water and baking powder. Pour into cake moulds and rise in the oven for maybe 15 minutes.
... actually, more like mini-Yorkshire Puddings.