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A generously flavoured fisherman soup from the town of Marseille, bouillabaisse makes the most of the local catch.

It was originally a pauper’s broth and the langoustine (Norwegian lobster) or spiny lobster suggested here is not obligatory; it just shows that you can make a fancy dish out of it, fit for a dinner party.

The selection of fish, crustaceans and shellfish may vary, but it’s good to achieve a balance between robust rock fish and delicate varieties (always be careful not to overcook the latter).

It is usually served as a main dish with toast and rouille, a kind of garlicky red pepper mayonnaise.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 6



For the soup:

5 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup/3½ oz (100 g) chopped leeks (white part only)

scant ½ cup/3½ oz (100 g) chopped onions

9 oz (250 g) tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and chopped

3 cloves garlic, 2 crushed, 1 halved

1 handful mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley and fennel fronds

1 bay leaf pinch of saffron threads

4½ lb (2.5 kg) fish fillets, such as whiting (silver hake), weever, conger eel, monkfish, red scorpion fish, sea robin (gurnard), red mullet (goatfish), or John Dory

2¼ lb (1 kg) crustaceans, such as spiny lobsters and langoustines (Norwegian lobster)

1¾ lb (800 g) mussels, cleaned

slices of bread, for toasting

salt and pepper


For the rouille:

2 cloves garlic

3 small hot peppers, seeded

2 egg yolks

1¼ cups/10 fl oz (300 ml) olive oil




Make the soup:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium–low heat, add the leeks, onions, tomatoes, and crushed garlic, and fry for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the herbs, bay leaf, and saffron.

Slice the thicker fish (such as conger eel, weever, and monkfish) and add to the pan along with the crustaceans. Cover with 6¼ cups/2½ pints (1.5 liters) water. Rapidly bring to a boil and cook for 7 minutes. Add the more delicate fish. Continue to cook over high heat for another 5 minutes, then add the mussels and cook for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the rouille:

Pound the garlic and hot peppers to a paste with a mortar and pestle, then add the egg yolks and season with salt. Gradually add the olive oil, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of the fish cooking liquid and set aside.

Check the seasoning of the bouillabaisse and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Toast the bread and rub it with the halved clove of garlic. Put the garlic toast in a soup tureen, and pour the fish cooking juices over. Serve the fish, crustaceans, and mussels separately on a serving dish, accompanied by the rouille.

Book cover: Courtesy Phaidon. Food photography: Courtesy Marie-Pierre Morel

Classic French Recipes by Ginette Mathiot

Published by Phaidon

On sale March 21. $AU74.95