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Bouillabaisse – Bullabesa. The Queen of the French Soups

Come along with me, take my hand and have a deep breath… we are by the sea, feel the breeze in your hair and that particular salty smell… today’s dish is Buouillabaisse, one of the richest fish soups ever.

Original from Marseille, this soup started as a fishermen dish and it ended up at the best Paris Restaurants. Now you can find it anywhere in the world… give it a try and enjoy such flavourful seafood tastes, its amazing and rich smell filled my kitchen for hours. The recipe is not complicated at all but it will take some hours to have it ready. So worth to try! Is this afternoon a rainy and cold one? Get the fresh products from your fishmonger, a good glass of wine and be ready to spend 4 to 5 hours in the kitchen… you won’t regret it!

See hereunder Tossa de Mar’s view in the background, one of the Costa Brava’s most beautiful villages.Let’s walk a bit further north and take a look to Cadaqués, another Costa Brava village. One of Salvador Dali’s favourite spots!Let’s now go south and head to Barcelona’s port.

I did some research before I decided to post about this soup and I found as many recipes on bouillabaisse as books and magazines I consulted. I tried to be as close to the original as I could… but who knows if my choice was the right one? Any french readers who want to share their knowledge on this dish?

Very important! Buy the freshest ingredients and high quality ones… this will get your guests to perform “the wave” while seating at your dining room’s table ;D.

Ingredients for 4 servings: A fish called: Scorpaena scrofa (called cabracho) is a fish of the family of escorpénidos red and covered with thorns. Their weight can reach nearly 3 kg but are rare copies of more than 1,5-2 kg. Usually found at depths from 10 to 500 m, although it is possible to find a little water. (text and picture from wikipedia).

For the dish: Nowadays this fish is hard to find and that’s why I used these others: monk fish and hake (1 kilo and half. Ask your fishmonger to cut it in thick slices), 4 shrimps and 4 Norway lobsters, 8 medium monalisa potatoes, olive oil, 1 green pepper, 1 leek, 1 branch of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 3 table spoons of concentrated tomatoe sauce, 3 red onions, 3 carrots, 6 saffron strings, 3 garlic cloves.
For the fish stock: 5 to 6 beach fish (your fishmonger will recommend what’s best for a white stock), 5 galeres (take a look at the pics and see if you find its name in English, I couldn’t). Also, use the head of the hake for this stock.
For the rouille (sauce): 1 sandwich bread slice without the crust, 1 teaspoon of Pimiento chorizero meat (you could use ñora here or pimiento morron asado – roasted morron pepper). If you cannot find it in your habitual shop check La Tienda., 1 eggs’ yolk, salt and pepper, olive oil and 8 thin baguette slices.

Easy when you see it in pics, isn’t it?

  • Start the fish stock: Clean the fish you will use for the stock or ask your fishmonger to do it for you. In a big deep pot, have 5 liters of cold water and place all the fish in there. Bring to boil, take the white foam out and let cook for 25 to 30 minutes maximum. Strain, squeeze the fish in a strainer and take all the juice you can out of it. Reserve this first fish stock.
  • In a big sauce pan pour enough olive oil to slowly cook the veggies. Add them clean and cut (pepper, leek, carrots, onions). Once they start getting tender add the herbs (thyme and bay leaf). Stir for 2 minutes and then add the saffron and the tomatoe. Stir for another 2 minutes and add the fish stock we had reserved. Let it boil for 1 hour and half. Strain and squeeze the ingredients in the strainer and you will get the stock base for the bouillabaisse.
  • Now, peel the potatoes and break them in small pieces. Clean the monkfish and hake and leave over a strainer. In a big deep casserole pour the bouillabaisse base and when it starts boiling add the potatoes. 8 minutes before they are completely cooked, add the fish in thick slices and the seafood.
  • To serve this soup, the fish/seafood and the potatoes are served aside and the soup goes with some toast bread and rouille sauce on top.
  • To prepare the rouille sauce: soak the sandwich bread in the bouillabaisse base and put into a blender, add the 3 peeled garlic cloves, the meat of the pimiento chorizero, 1 eggs’ yolk, salt and pepper to fit your taste and blend. Place in a bowl and add some extra virgin olive oil until you get a mayonnaise texture.
  • Pour the bouillabaisse soup in a plate, prepare some toasted baguette slices and spread the rouille sauce on top. Place in the plate and also add the bodies of the shrimps and Norway lobsters.
  • The recipe didn’t mention clams, squid nor mussels, but I steamed some bibalves and added the strained juice to the bouillabaisse and the clams and mussels to the soup. I added the squid to the base together with the fish.
  • Also if you use an earthenware dish to present the Bouillabaisse you will touch perfection!!!

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did! It was amazing… so rich in flavours and a delicious contrast with the rouille sauce toasts. Please give it a try… your guests will be there next weekend ;D


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11/10/2008 · 15:33 h by Passionate About Baking

Thank you for the wonderful tour, the sea breeze & the flavours Nuria. Even though I’m not a ‘fishy’ foodie, more a ‘chickeny’ one, I enjoyed reading the post a lot!

11/10/2008 · 17:37 h by canarygirl

Uuuuuuu! Qué elegante, Núria! :)

11/10/2008 · 18:02 h by FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels

The Queen of French Soups by the Catalan Blogging Queen. What a match! As you said, a lot of work pero parece que valia la pena.

11/10/2008 · 19:16 h by Emiline

Could you make this for me? I don’t think I can pull it off! Buouillabaisse sounds really good. I love the pictures in the background!

11/10/2008 · 23:16 h by JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

Wow, you took me to a new place today Nuria! Thanks for the trip. I can honestly say I have never made a bouillabaisse before, and I can’t even say with certainty that I have had it before….silly, isn’t it?

11/11/2008 · 8:14 h by History of Greek Food

What a beutiful presentation for a a gorgeous fishermen’s soup!!!

11/11/2008 · 9:18 h by Núria

Hola Deeba! I would bet my right hand that you would love my soup ;D… I have no doubt!

Hola Nikki! Nice to see you back in the arena ;D

You are too nice Joan! I would have loved it to share it with you sweetie!!!

Sure Emiline!!! Get a plane… don’t need to book a hotel… my home is your home and my soup is your soup :D

Jenn, there’s a lot of hours to perform the soup but you would looooove it! It was fantastic♥. Ain’t fishermen’s villages cute?

11/11/2008 · 9:19 h by Núria

Hola History! Welcome to my blog :D. Thanks for your kind words. I’m really happy you enjoyed it :D

11/11/2008 · 13:42 h by giz

Whenever I hear people talk about boullabaise it’s always with such reverence. I can see why – it’s the slow cook soup supreme. If I close my eyes I can transport myself to the wonderful images you’ve captured and it just makes life good all over.

11/11/2008 · 16:35 h by Bellini Valli

I can feel the warm sea breeze on my face Nuria. My spoon is in hand and I am raring to go:D

11/11/2008 · 17:04 h by Laurie Constantino

Nuria, were your ears burning yesterday morning??? I was talking and talking about you to my husband because we were watching Tony Bourdain in Barcelonia, rural Catalonia, etc. I was explaining all the wonderful food you’ve so carefully described and photographed and how great your blog is. And this post on bouillabaise is definitely a winner. From the books with glorious photo spreads, to the even greater beauty of your raw ingredients, you’ve hit a home run writing about this glorious soup!

11/11/2008 · 18:04 h by RecipeGirl

What a beautiful post! You put so much energy into this one, I’m so amazed. I love how you showed us the pictures in the book. This looks like one delicious soup!

11/11/2008 · 18:24 h by Núria

Hola Giz! Aaaahhh today we had the last soup plate :(… it’s over! If you come over during the summer don’t dream about finding the beach that way ;D

Thanks Valli :D

Aaaaaahhhhh, hola Laurie, Mallory from the Salty Cod told me about this! I wish I could see that program… what did Anthony show?

Thanks so much for your sweet and kind words on my blog… it feels so good! I spent about 7 hours in this post (cooking+photographing+blogging).

11/11/2008 · 19:06 h by Heather

That fish looks like what we call “rockfish”. I love bouillabase! I made it once, but then I made it thai-flavored with coconut milk and green curry.

I love the photos with ocean book propped up for the background. Very clever, Zorra! ;)

11/11/2008 · 19:57 h by Núria

Thanks so much Recipegirl :D Yes, a lot of effort but sooooooo worth and soooooooo delicious ;D

Heather, thanks… we also call it pescado de roca= rockfish, but I thought it would be an unfaithful translation, I didn’t dare to say rockfish but it’s called the same.

I think you meant to say Astuta, that is what a fox is. If you say Zorra (actually is the name of the female fox) you are saying something like bitch!
Sometimes languages can be a bit funny… don’t they? ;D

11/12/2008 · 0:28 h by Darius T. Williams

I love the tour…and the dish looks great!


11/12/2008 · 9:53 h by Núria

Thanks so much Darius! Glad you enjoyed it!

11/13/2008 · 7:32 h by [eatingclub] vancouver || js

Thanks so much for the pic by pic. I’ve never attempted bouillabaisse before because it seems so complicated. I’ll certainly be armed with your instructions when I get up the courage.

I never knew that that fish (the spiny one) could be eaten and included in this soup. Wow. So many interesting little creatures in this pot.

11/13/2008 · 18:56 h by taste memory

that stock looks perfect! so much fun ~ love your scenic background ;-)

11/14/2008 · 2:24 h by We Are Never Full

love that you put your dish in front of pictures of places in spain. ha ha ha! you almost can’t tell you aren’t there live! except for the line in the middle of the book. this looks fabulous. and what i wouldn’t give to be walking up and down those steps in cadaques right now!

11/14/2008 · 6:56 h by Jude

Thanks for the detailed recipe.. I’ll need a whole weekend to plan and make this it seems :)

11/14/2008 · 8:23 h by Núria

JS if you enjoy fish, this is the Soup to try!!! So flavourful and tasty, you won’t regret it :D. The spiny fish is sooooo rich in flavour :D

Thanks so much Taste of Memory :D

Hola Amy! Thanks sweetie! I wish I could go to Cadaqués too… so near and yet it’s been ages since I’ve been there :D

Hola Jude! You will be so happy to try this dish… really… it’s amazing…. so good :D :D

11/14/2008 · 16:17 h by Heather

Oh. My. God. Babelfiiiiish! (shaking fist)

I thought I was calling you a cunning fox. :\

11/14/2008 · 17:05 h by Núria

Heather I knew there was a linguistic missunderstanding here! Don’t worry at all. I surely say so many wrong and weird things in this blog without knowing ;D

11/14/2008 · 17:34 h by glamah16

Great post on boullabaise. I do love it so.You have access to so much great fish.

11/22/2008 · 20:45 h by Psychgrad

You’re awesome Nuria! You put so much work into creating delicious recipes. I’m in aww. Bouillabaisse always seemed like one of those things I would have to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu classes for before attempting.

I might have to steal you idea of using a book as a backdrop. Very cute.

02/07/2015 · 13:11 h by Carolina

Mare meva! Fa unes setmanes que vaig trobar el teu blog, i m’ha encantat, estaba buscant una recepta amb lluç i va i surt el meu poble! Sóc de Tossa pero un any y mig que ja no hi visc. M’alegra que promocionis tan bé la gastronomia catalana.

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