French Lessons
60 mins
Cooking time
40 mins
Steve Brown

A specialty from the south of France, bouillabaisse is more of a meal than a mere soup. It is really all about the seafood, which is served whole, suspended in an intense saffron-flavoured broth. Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients: the trick is being organised. All the trimmings and fish bones are used to make the stock. Shortly before serving, the fish fillets and seafood are quickly poached in the stock for maximum flavour.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg fish bones
3 x 300g red mullet or red snapper
1 whole snapper, (about 1 kg)
12 large mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
12 large scallops
1 fennel bulb
1 carrot
1/2 celery stalk
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
4 vine-ripened tomatoes
2 star anise
10 coriander seeds
good pinch saffron threads
1 small piece orange rind
100ml white wine
80ml pernod
80ml brandy
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 stalks basil
80ml cooking oil
80g butter
3 litres water


  1. If you are not confident about preparing the fish yourself, ask your fishmonger to fillet it for you. Just make sure you ask him to give you the trimmings and bones back for your stock, plus extra if needed to make up the 1 kg. The red mullet should give 6 fillets and the snapper 2 fillets. Cut each snapper fillet in half to give 4 portions. Prepare all the remaining seafood and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Chop the fish carcasses into small pieces and place in a large bowl with the prawn shells.
  3. Chop all the vegetables to a rough mirepoix and add them to the bowl with all the remaining ingredients, except for the fish and seafood, salt and pepper, oil, butter and water. Mix well to combine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to marinate.
  4. Tip into a colander to drain, and keep the liquid separate from the solids. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan or heavy-based casserole pan over a high heat. Add the marinated bones and vegetables and toss over the heat for a few moments. Add the butter and allow it to foam and caramelise. Sauté for 10–15 minutes until everything has coloured a deep golden red.
  5. Add the reserved marinade to the pan and deglaze. Pour on the water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent things sticking and burning.
  6. Strain the soup through a sieve, pushing forcefully with the back of the ladle to extract as much of the juice and pulp as you can. Pass through a finer sieve and return to a clean saucepan over a medium heat. Add the snapper fillets and mussels to the pan and poach for 2 minutes. Add the red mullet and prawns and poach for a further minute. Just before you serve, add the scallops, which will cook in the heat by the time the bowl reaches the table. Season to taste. Serve piping hot.
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