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Rick Stein’s Bouillabaisse

A recipe from Rick Stein's travels, this French inspired bouillabaisse is a must-try. The medley of seafood is met with a rich tomato and white wine sauce.

From the book


This is not exactly the bouillabaisse they serve at L’Epuisette, the restaurant in Marseille where we filmed every step of the making of it. This is because most of us don ‘t have access to small coastal rockfish like rascasse and weever. nor is it easy to get hold of the small crabs they also use in the stock. I’ve done my best, though, to achieve a flavour as close as possible to that excellent fish stew, which I ate with my friend, the chef Simon Hopkinson. at the end of my journey. I’ve also taken the deeply unPC step of using fillets of fish for the final cooking, simply because the business of finding small inshore fish will be so difficult for you — but if you are lucky enough to get them, use whole fish instead.

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4 x 175-200g small monkfish tails
4 x 250-300g gurnard
4 x 250-300g John Dory
2 x 500g cooked lobsters
150ml olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ leek, cleaned and sliced
3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and finely chopped
½ small bulb fennel, finely chopped
A pinch of crushed dried chillies
1kg conger eel or pollack, skinned and cut into small chunks
100g tomato purée
100ml dry white wine
1 bouquet garni (bunch of herbs) made from thyme sprigs, bay leaves and parsley stalks
4–5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ tsp saffron strands
½ tsp mild curry powder
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper
For the croûtons:
A little olive oil, for shallow frying
12 thin slices French bread
2-3 whole garlic cloves
To serve:
100g Rouille (see ingredients and method below)
25 g finely grated Parmesan cheese
450g small potatoes (optional)
For the rouille:
1x25g slice of day-old crustless white bread
A little fish stock or water
2 tbsp harissa paste
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled
1 egg yolk
250ml olive oil

Essential kit

You will need: a food processor.


First prepare all the fish. Skin the monkfish tails and remove the fillets, and fillet the gurnard and John Dory. Break off the legs and claws of the lobsters and set aside the thinner legs for the stock. Crack the shells of the claws with the back of a knife and break at the joints into smaller pieces. Cut the rest of the lobster in half lengthways, detach the head from the tail and cut each tailpiece across into three evenly sized pieces. Put the fish fillets and lobster pieces onto a tray, cover with clingfilm and keep chilled until needed.

Now make the rouille. Cover the slice of bread with the fish stock or water and leave to soften. Squeeze out the excess liquid and put the bread into a food processor with the harissa, garlic, egg yolk and remaining ¼ tsp of salt. Blend until smooth. With the machine still running, gradually add the oil until you have a smooth, thick mayonnaise-like mixture. Store in the fridge until needed.

Now make a fish stock by putting the fish bones, lobster legs and 2.25 litres of water into a large pan. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then strain into a clean pan. You should have about 2 litres. If not, make up with a little water. Set aside.

For the soup, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the vegetables and crushed dried chillies and cook gently for 20 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the conger eel or pollack and fry briskly with the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato purée, white wine and fish stock. Bring to the boil, add the bouquet garni, garlic, saffron, curry powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper and leave to simmer very gently, uncovered, for 1 hour.

For the croûtons, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the slices of bread and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain briefly on kitchen paper then rub one side of each with garlic. Keep warm in a low oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C / gas mark 3. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan, pressing as much of the liquid through the sieve as you can with the back of a ladle. Return the soup to a wide-based, shallow, clean pan, season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, and bring back to simmer. Add the monkfish fillets and cook for 1 minute. Then add the gurnard and John Dory fillets and the pieces of lobster, making sure that they are fully submerged in the soup, and simmer for a further 2 minutes. The fish will still be slightly undercooked at this point.

Carefully lift the fish fillets and lobster pieces out of the soup onto a warmed serving plate, ladle over a small amount of the soup, cover with foil and put into the oven to keep warm, but don’t leave any more than 10 minutes. Ladle the soup into warm soup plates and serve as a first course with the croûtons, rouille and Parmesan cheese. Then serve the fish as a main course, with, if you wish, more rouille and some small potatoes cooked in the soup.


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