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.

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Merluza A La Barbacoa y Ensalada Arcoiris – Barbecued Hake & A Rainbow Salad

Dressed For Dinner

Fish Man came up trumps the other day with a whole hake in the back of his little van. It was rather large, too much for just Big Man and me, so as it was fresh it went into the freezer.

A few days later friends were coming over for lunch, and the sun promised to shine, so I decided to barbecue it.  A quick visit to the garden to gather mint and lemons, and out into the olive grove for the tops of the wild fennel which is everywhere, and I was set.

I had to gut and clean the fish, but if you´re buying from a fishmonger, I´m sure it will be cleaned for you.  It´s not that tricky (wear kitchen gloves though, or you´ll smell like a hake for the rest of the day!) but not for the squeamish.

Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper and salt the inside slightly.  Stuff it with bunches of herbs and thin slices of lemons, then sprinkle the outside with coarse sea salt.  No oil needed, but the salt will protect the fish and you´ll end up with lovely charred skin which I personally love to eat, but I know some people don´t.

Then it´s on to the barbecue for your hake.  We cooked it on a low heat and the lid on for about 15 minutes in total.  If you do use hake, but you could do this with pretty much any fish, it´s firm, so easy to turn when it´s half done.  Check it´s cooked by peeking inside – the flesh will be white when it´s ready.

Ready to eat!

I served this with a delicious salad which was so beautifully coloured, it didn´t matter that the sun went in and a big cloud hovered over us all through lunch!  I used chopped new boiled potatoes, cooked beetroot, oranges, thin slices of raw carrot and chopped chives. I made a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard powder, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper.

With so much colour, it can´t not be good for you...

Food for a sunny, or not so sunny day!