About this recipe:This is the most memorable dish my Father used to cook. The dish is prepared in two parts, first a "base" part is made, and then a "bouillabaisse" part, into which the "base" part is added. I would recommend using rock fish and shellfish available to your particular area. Use either small shellfish (cigales de mer) if they are available, or small crabs (favouille) in the base, but not both. The original Bouillabaisse (“bouï abaisso” in Provençal) was from the Calanque coast between Marseilles and Toulon.
For the base
1 conger eel head and/or enough fish heads/tails or small fish suitable for making stock
12 small green crabs or small shellfish
2 small leeks, sliced
1 sprig of fennel
4 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bouquet garni
1 teaspoon orange zest
freshly ground pepper
olive oil as needed
For the bouillabaisse
2kg assorted rock fish including (if available) - red mullet (rouget), sea bass (loup), cukoo wrasse (labre)
1kg mussels, preferably large ones
olive oil as needed
2 teaspoons of saffron
1kg potatoes, optional (potatoes are only used for a Toulon Bouillabaisse)
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Method Prep:30min › Cook:1hr30min › Ready in:2hr
Scale and clean the fish, rinse the shellfish/crabs in cold water, scrub and debeard the mussels, cut the fish heads off.
Separate the small fish, fish heads and the crabs/shellfish for the base, from the larger fish for the bouillabaisse. Then divide those for bouillabaisse into the firm-fleshed fish and the softer fleshed ones. (The mussels will be used at the end of the bouillabaisse.)
Chop the garlic and onions. Clean and dice the tomatoes.
To prepare the base: Into a large stew pot put a little olive oil, the small fish, cut into chunks, the crabs or shellfish, the tomatoes, a sprig of fennel, sliced leeks, sliced onions, chopped garlic, a teaspoon of orange zest and the bouquet garni. Warm on low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 4 litres boiling water and let simmer for 30 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare the bouillabaisse: In a large frying pan or a large shallow saucepan, on a medium-low flame, add a little olive oil put the hard-fleshed fish and (optionally) the potatoes, sliced.
Remove the crabs or shellfish and the bouquet garni from the base, put them on a plate and leave on the side for now, and pour the base through a sieve into the pan, forcing through the sieve as required.
Add in an extra teaspoon of olive oil and the saffron. If necessary, add some boiling water to ensure that the fish are just covered in liquid. Turn the heat up high and gently boil for 12 minutes.
Add the soft-flesh fish and the mussels, as well as the shellfish or crabs (you removed from the base earlier) and softly boil for another 6 minutes, making sure the mussels have opened and the shellfish or crabs are heated through, then remove from heat. Discard any unopened mussels before serving.
While the bouillabaisse is bubbling away, prepare the rouille. (see Rouille recipe here.)
To serve: Remove the large fish and shellfish (sliced in two lengthwise) or small crabs (whole) from the heat, and place on a platter for self-serving.
Smear the rouille onto slices of bread - preferably lightly grilled or toasted baguette slices. Put the rest of the rouille in a small dish and place on the table along with the fish platter.
Place the bread-and-rouille and potatoes (optional) into bowls, along with a few mussels, and pour in the Bouillabaisse broth, serve and enjoy.