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Bouillabaisse, a delicious French seafood soup with a modern twist

The traditional bouillabaisse was a simple affair. Rustic tomato, herb and garlic based fish stew prepared by French fishermen using fish that was not suitable for sale on the market.  Despite its humble beginnings, the soup has become one of modern cuisine’s favourites; appearing on bistro and restaurant menus around the world. A new classic, if you wish, and one of my favourite orders.

What’s different about this particular bouillabaisse, is the modern twist: its lightness. I have first tried this modern version of the bouillabaisse in Shanghai, out of all places! But this should not come as a surprise. The Pearl of the Orient with its fascinating history and cultural influences of East-meets-West, is the perfect place to marry the rich flavours of French cuisine with a light and simplistic flair of Asian cooking. And no one does it better in that corner of the Earth than M on the Bund – that’s where I found my inspiration for this recipe.

The flavours of the light tomato broth are a perfect backdrop of sweet and sour to the sweet, slightly creamy flavour of the seafood. Fresh herbs add an extra dimension to both the flavour and the delicate appeal of the dish.

Serves 2

Bouillabaisse, a delicious French seafood soup with a modern twist

  • 1 cooked blue swimmer crab, cut in half
  • 6 green prawns
  • 6 mussels
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely
  • 1 spring onion, diced finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 5cm long orange peel + 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tbsp port // or sherry
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 12 baby coriander sprigs

Prepare the seafood first. Peel the prawns, leaving the tails intact and gently pull out the dark intestinal vein running along the back. Reserve shells and heads. Scrub the mussels and pull out any beards (thread like looking parts at the very joint of the two shells). Discard any mussels that are broken or open and don’t close when tapped against working surface. Pick out the white meat from the crab’s body and smaller legs. Reserve claws and all shells. Refrigerate seafood until needed.

In a medium saucepan heat butter and a little olive oil until bubbling. Add prawn heads, shells and crab shells. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring and pressing down heads gently for 5 minutes. Add garlic, flour and mix with a whisk. Add fish stock, paprika, orange peel and saffron and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the stock through a sieve set over a bowl.

To peel the tomatoes, make a small cross-cut on the bottom of tomato. Place in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and peel the skin away from the cross, then dice and remove seeds. Heat a little oil in the same saucepan and add tomatoes, onion and spring onions. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Add the strained stock, grated orange zest, mussels and crab claws, cook for 5 minutes or until the mussels open. Discard any unopened ones. Lastly add prawns and allow them to cook for 2 minutes.

Serve the soup in large bowls, generously dotted with the seafood, chilled crab meat and decorated with little sprigs of baby coriander. Crusty bread on the side is also a serving option.

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3 thoughts on “Bouillabaisse, a delicious French seafood soup with a modern twist

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