Up the Mountain Bouillabaisse with Orange and Fennel

One of my very dearest friends, Donna came to stay in the summer, and she´s a chick who enjoys cooking and eating, even though she´s a tiny little thing who looks like she eats like a sparrow! On her first night I wanted to prepare something special for us all and one of the first questions she asked as I picked her up at the airport was “What are we eating tonight?”. When I told her I was making a fish soup I could see her little face fall, she looked so disappointed. I don´t know what she was expecting, but when I served a similar version to this recipe, she brightened up  considerably and then gave me a good telling off for giving such a delicious meal such a dull name.

So that´s why it now has a “proper” name, and I have to agree, it does sound so much nicer than “Fish Soup”.  Mind you, a lot of things sound so much more exciting when you say them in French.

For two hungry people as a main course I used a mixture of mussels (500g), prawns (250g), clams (250g) and a large squid cleaned and chopped into bite sized chunks.

You´ll also need an orange, half a bulb of fennel (however I used wild fennel), a pinch of saffron stamens or turmeric, a cup of chopped tomato, four fat cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced, a medium onion peeled, halved and thinly sliced, the juice and zest of a medium orange, a bay leaf, a dried chili (optional), a glass of white wine (also optional but if you prefer to cook without it you may need a little extra liquid) and some olive oil for frying.

Of course, this is not an authentic version of the Provençal fish stew which is served with a rouille, but my adaptation.

Start by peeling the prawns and covering the shells with about 600 ml of water.  Then add the bay leaf and bringing to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for about 10 minutes and then strain, reserving the stock.

Clean your mussels well and rinse the clams two or three times to remove any grit.

Now lightly fry the onion and garlic in some olive oil until soft and transparent, and add the finely sliced fennel and cook for a few minutes more.  Add the tomato and allow it to cook down for a few minutes. Now add the chili if using, season with a little salt and and few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the juice of the orange plus the grated orange zest, the fish stock and finally the wine.  Simmer for a further 5 minutes then begin to add the seafood and shellfish.  Start with the thickest first (in my case it was the squid) then after about 2 minutes when the squid had turned white I added the clams and mussels and covered with a lid.  When they had opened I added the peeled prawns which were quick to cook, just a minute or two.

Finally, remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasoning and serve garnished with fennel tops, some grated orange zest and with plenty of crusty bread for those lovely juices.

For another, slightly different version with vegetables and fideo, take a look at this recipe.


60 thoughts on “Up the Mountain Bouillabaisse with Orange and Fennel

  1. I’ve had some truly amazing fish soup in the past, at Rick Stein’s, Blacks, Joanet (in Barcelona), some tiny little place on a cliff near Marseilles (I’ve completely forgotten the name) and I’m quite sure yours is up there with them! I can only imagine that Donna hadn’t had good fish soup before tasted Mountain Bouillabaisse 😉

    1. You´ve eaten at some pretty amazing places – can tick Rick Stein´s off that list though! I think poor little Donna was just expecting a thin soup and she has a marvelous appetite!

  2. Oh Tanya, Chica! I would like a bowl right now, cannot wait! This looks GORGEOUS! This is making its way to our table, but can’t happen fast enough!

      1. I ‘m a little embarrassed at how I gushed at the first sight of this stew and spewed my comment without first taking just a moment, and a few deep calming breaths. But here it is now the next day, I’ve got to say that is one gorgeous bowl of fish soup and I would so love a bowl of it! I’ve never cleaned mussels nor even cooked squid before. I suppose I’ll wait til a good long weekend with nothing else to do before I tackle what’s sure to be an inelegant exercise. I’ll be wishing I had you speaking encouraging and instructive words over my shoulder though, Tanya. xo

      2. Now this comment makes me smile – I love it when I can make people excited about something I cook and feel that I´ve managed in some small way to share my passion and enthusiasm for a dish! Cleaning the seafood is not so bad. I need to do a “how to” for mussels but I´ll be wishing I had you over my shoulder taking fantastic shots and writing the words!

  3. Oh you lucky lucky thing, the fish man comeith! What a gorgeous array of flavours in there. And you are right everything sounds better in french.. c

  4. SImply wonderful, Tanya! I’m going to a fishmonger tomorrow with a friend and I’ve been debating preparing a brodetto. Maybe you’re posting this today is a sign and I’m supposed to make one. If The Fates go through all that trouble to get you to prepare this dish and write the blog entry, who am I to ignore the signs? Well, if I do make one and it looks half as good as yours, I’ll be more than happy. That is one beautiful dish of seafood you’ve prepared!

    1. Mmm brodetto – isn´t is great that all the countries that have fish and shellfish have their own version of a fish soup?! The signs say “yes” make that brodetto! It is Friday after all and you know it´s “fish on Friday”! Thanks for your lovely words.

  5. This sounds heavenly!!! I miss fennel 😦
    Shall definitely try this out in the future when near a full range of ingredients again. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Tanya, this is just what I was thinking of making over the weekend! and now I need to look no farther than your recipe! I was so excited to see this; I know it will taste fabulous!! I struggle with getting my mussels cleaned enough tho, it always makes me nervous. Beautiful photo and presentation!

  7. I like your adaptation – with orange and fennel, I’m imagining lovely aromas. and as to the name, the addition of mountain works for me, whereas sealevel soup doesn’t have the same ring about it somehow!

  8. When I first started following your blog, I was sooo impressed by all he exotic dishes you make. Here you go again with something totally new to me and it looks very inviting. I always look forward to seeing what wonderful treats you’re cooking “up in the mountain”! The Big Man must be sooooooo happy! and lucky Donna for being able to enjoy this!

  9. Hi Chica – I love a good bouillabaisse – all those fish flavours, mixed with a delicate orangey, anisey background flavour… Beautiful! Last time I followed a recipe for a bouillabaisse it said I should use 5 grams of Saffron… FIVE GRAMS! I buy a jar containing 7 little pots, each with 0.1g inside and it’s €11… Crazy!

    1. Saffron is horribly expensive, luckily it is cheaper here. In an emergency (unlike the Spanish who tend to use food colouring) I add a little turmeric which does affect the taste a little, but not in a bad way!

  10. This looks delicious! D-Man loves seafood, but I rarely make it. I actually hated seafood until I came to live in Spain. I could make more of it now, but I’ll admit I have no idea where to begin in terms of the kinds of fish I’ll need (different fish is better for different sauces, stews, wines, etc). But your recipe sounds delectable and easy enough! I’ll tell D-Man about it, and I’ve actually been craving mussels lately!

    1. It is a pretty easy dish to make – or you could just use mussels and do them either in white wine and garlic (possibly a little cream) or with a sofrito…even easier. And if you can find cleaned mussels….hardly any work at all 😉

  11. It is so very late here, I cannot go to sleep and now I am hungry… I have made several trips to the pantry, the refrig and nothing seems to be right! It looks delicious!

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