Provencal fish stew

This is a simplified version of the classic Provencal fish stew known as bouillabaisse. Rouille sauce is a traditional accompaniment.
Buy as wide a variety of fish as possible. Choose from cod, halibut, monkfish, whiting, mackerel or mullet.


serves 6
1 - 1.25 kg (2 - 2 1/2 lb) mixed fish fillets, skinned and cut into 5 cm/2 inch pieces
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh fennel bouquet garni
1 - 2 strips orange zest
300 ml (1/2 pint) dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 litre (2 pints) fish stock or water
pinch of powdered saffron (optional)
100 g (4 oz) peeled prawns, defrosted if frozen
few cooked mussels, shelled
6 slices French bread, to serve
chopped parsley, to garnish

rouille sauce

1 slice bread, crusts removed, soaked in water
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg yolk
150 ml (1/4 pint) olive oil


1. Place the fish in a large dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, fennel, bouquet garni and orange zest, then pour in the wine. Season well with salt and pepper, cover and leave to marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying-pan or flameproof casserole, then add the onions and celery and fry gently for 5 minutes until onions are soft and lightly coloured then stir in the chopped tomatoes and the tomato puree and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

3. Drain the fish and add the marinade to the pan. Stir in the fish stock and sprinkle in the powdered saffron, if using. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile make the sauce: squeeze the bread dry and put it into a bowl with the chilli, garlic, egg yolk and a pinch of salt. Beat together with a little of the oil until well blended. Gradually whisk in the remaining oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl, cover with cling film and set aside until it is required.

5. Discard the fennel, bouquet garni and orange zest from the drained fish, then add the marinated fish pieces and any remaining juices to the pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

6. Add the prawns and mussels. Simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the fish is still in pieces but flakes easily when it is tested with a fork.

7. Meanwhile, fry the French bread in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until crisp.

8. To serve: taste the stew and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer to large, individual soup plates, sprinkle with parsley and serve at once. Serve the fried French bread and rouille sauce separately.

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