The Fish Society’s Bouillabaisse

Serves 6-8


Our kit contains

rascasse - fillet, head and bones (in 3 separate pieces)
gurnard fillet
weever (on the bone)
John Dory (headless, despiked, on the bone)
conger eel steaks
rock lobster
monkfish skinned steak

you might want to add...
an extra lobster tail

You will also need
olive oil 150ml
fennel – 2 bulbs
onion – 2 medium
leeks – 4 medium
garlic – 6 cloves
tomatoes  – 2 tins
white wine – 300ml
saffron – 1 gram
parsley – small bunch
baguettes – 2

  •  Obviously, you will need a very large pan.
  •  You must serve with rouille. Buy it or make it! (see below)
  •  Cooking time from step 2 is 20 minutes.


1 Cut the fish chunks no smaller than bite-size. Cut the lobster into 8 pieces. Divide the fish into fillets and on-the-bone. Chop the fennel, onions and leeks finely (the leeks – only the white parts). Crush or chop the garlic. Chop the parsley. Slice the baguettes thickly (2cms).

2 Put all ingredients except the filleted fish and the parsley  in your large pan. Put a little water in the bottom and turn on the heat. Now boil water in your kettle and add it to the pan until the ingredients are just covered. Turn up the heat and boil fast for 10 minutes.

3 Now add the fillet pieces. Stir in gently. Keep boiling for a further 8 minutes.

4 Warm 8 large soup bowls. Warm the bread too, but you are not trying to toast it. When you are ready for step 5, slice the baguettes thickly (2 cms) and give each bowl two slices.

5 Classically, at this point the soup and the fish pieces are separated and served separately but simultaneously. You can do that if you like. But our preference is to use a slotted spoon to remove the fish (keep it warm), then ladle the soup into the bowls and divide the fish pieces between them.  

6 Garnish with parsley. Voilà.

There are hundreds of recipes and many variants on the peripheral ingredients not to mention the fish. We took as our authority the recipe in Madame Prunier’s Fish Cookery Book published in 1938. It’s refreshingly free of fancy ingredients designed to achieve a celebrity touch. Nevertheless, a few of the post 1938 ingredients deserve serious consideration:

  • The zest and juice of an orange
  • A touch of chilli powder

Other variants you could think about
Sliced potatoes appear quite often, sometimes in place of the bread.
Mussels – the most popular shellfish we left out. They take up a lot of space and can get in the way. However, they appear in Mme P’s “Bouillabaisse à la Parisienne”… As you please.
Should you fry the bread? In Paris yes, and serve it separately for dunking. But never in Marseilles (“It should be remembered that the great cooks of Marseilles, of whom Caillat is that accepted master, have declared that it is a mistake to toast or fry the slices of bread.”). In Stevenage, Dundee or Cardiff, we suggest you do what feels right.

For an authentic “made it myself” boast, you’ll need to make the rouille. Here’s how: deseed, roast and peel one red pepper then blend with 4 cloves of crushed garlic and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Then blend into mayonnaise.