A filling fisherman’s soup from the South of France, Bouillabaisse (bwee-yah-behz) makes a wonderful main dish for a lunch or dinner party. It is eaten in large soup plates and the pieces of fish and the soup are served separately. It is usually accompanied by a side dish of Rouille (ruee), a garlic, pimiento and chilli pepper sauce which enhances the flavour of the soup. Each guest spoons a little into his soup according to taste. Accompany this dish with hot crusty French bread and butter.

All the fish except the lobster can be cleaned, scaled and sliced well in advance and kept, covered, in the refrigerator.

The court bouillon may also be made in advance and stored in covered container in the refrigerator.

2 lb. mussels

2 x

2 lb. lobsters (optional)

1 lb. each of

3 kinds of the following white fish, washed, cleaned, scaled and cut into

1-inch pieces: halibut, red snapper, bass, haddock, cod, sole or rockfish

2 lb. scallops, cut in halves

5 fl. oz. olive oil

2 large onions, thinly sliced

2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

8 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 pints water and

1 pint white wine

1 lb. fish heads, bones and trimmings

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2-inch strip lemon peel

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 bay leaf

1 ½ teaspoons crushed saffron threads

½ teaspoon salt

8 grindings black pepper

1 large green pepper, the white pith removed, seeded, and finely chopped

1 green chilli pepper, finely chopped

7 fl. oz. water

3 canned pimientos, drained and dried

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 fl. oz. olive oil

1 to

2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs

½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

14 slices French bread,

1-inch thick

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large garlic clove, cut in half

To prepare the mussels for cooking they must be thoroughly scrubbed with a stiff brush. Discard any mussels which are not tightly shut or any mussels that seem too heavy, as they will be full of sand. With a small sharp knife, scrape off the tufts of hair, or beards which protrude from between the closed shell halves. Place the mussels in a basin of cold water for 2 hours so they disgorge their sand. Wash and drain them again before cooking.

To make the court bouillon, heat the oil in a large, heavy, flameproof casserole over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the onions and leeks. Cook them slowly for 5 minutes, or until they are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and chopped tomatoes. Raise the heat to moderate and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the water, the wine, the fish trimmings, herbs and seasonings to the saucepan and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 40 minutes.

While the court bouillon is cooking, make the Rouille. Put the green pepper and chilli pepper in a small saucepan. Add the water and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes until the peppers are tender. Drain them through a sieve and pat them dry with kitchen paper towels. Put the peppers, pimiento and garlic in a large mortar and mash them with a pestle to a smooth paste, or put the peppers, pimiento and garlic in a mixing bowl and mash with a wooden spoon. Gradually beat in the olive oil, a few drops at a time. When all the oil has been beaten in, add enough breadcrumbs to make a sauce thick enough to hold its shape when a little is spooned on to a plate.

Stir in the Tabasco. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Set the Rouille aside in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to warm 325 °F (Gas Mark 3, 170°C).

To make the croutes, place the slices of bread in one layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, with a pastry brush, lightly coat the slices with olive oil. Turn the slices over on to the side which was uppermost in the first baking and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the bread is dry and golden brown. Rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic and set aside, covered with aluminium foil.

When the court bouillon is ready, strain it through a large, fine sieve into another large saucepan, pressing down with the back of a metal spoon to squeeze out the juices from the vegetables and fish trimmings. Discard the vegetables and trimmings. Cover the saucepan and place it to one side.

Now prepare the lobsters. Tie the claws together and wash each lobster. Lay it on its underbelly on a chopping board and, with a towel wrapped around one hand for protection, grasp the lobster firmly. With a large, heavy, sharp knife, cut through the lobster behind the head to sever the spinal cord. This kills the lobster. Slice the tail in half lengthways and then into 4 or 5 pieces crossways. o this by putting the knife in position and hitting the back of it sharply with a hammer.) Remove the lobster’s intestinal tract. Cut off the claws and separate the joints from the claws. Crack the flat side of each claw. Remove the feelers and cut the body section in half lengthways. Remove and discard the gelatinous sac near the head, but scoop out and reserve the liver and coral.

Bring the court bouillon to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the lobster pieces and liver and coral to the bouillon.

Boil briskly for 5 minutes. Add the white fish and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the mussels and scallops, cover the pan and boil for 5 minutes longer or until the mussels open and the fish is tender when pierced with a fork. Do not overcook the fish or it will not stay in firm pieces.

To serve, remove the fish carefully from the bouillon with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a warmed serving dish. m< &- –;

Pour the soup into a large tureen. Add just enough of the soup to the Rouille to thin it. Pour the thinned Rouille into a sauce boat to be served separately.

At the table put 1 croute in the middle of each individual soup bowl. Ladle the soup into each bowl and top with some pieces of fish. Serve very hot.

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