Some­thing fishy

Rich in leg­end, bouil­l­abaisse is loved the world over

Life & Style Weekend - - EASY EATING -

BOUIL­L­ABAISSE, pro­nounced “boo-yah-behss”, is a Mediter­ranean seafood stew which is said to have orig­i­nated from Mar­seilles. An­cient fish­er­men com­bined un­sellable rock­fish and shell­fish in a caul­dron of gar­lic and fen­nel for a feed when they re­turned to port.

An­other apoc­ryphal story in Ro­man mythol­ogy was that Venus served bouil­l­abaisse to her hus­band Vul­can, which put him to sleep, so she she could con­sort with Mars. De­spite its con­tro­ver­sial ori­gins, bouil­l­abaisse is per­fect served on a ta­ble be­tween friends – just don’t for­get the crusty bread for dip­ping.

Short­cut Bouil­l­abaisse

Serves 4

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS: 2 tbs olive oil 1 onion, finely sliced 1 fen­nel bulb, finely sliced, re­serve fronds to serve 2 gar­lic cloves, finely sliced large pinch of saf­fron threads 200g tin whole toma­toes, crushed 1.25 litres fish stock (see be­low) 700g mixed seafood (such as cod, hal­ibut, prawns, clams, mus­sels) sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pep­per.

METHOD: Heat the oil and saute the onion, fen­nel and gar­lic for 10 min­utes un­til just brown. Add the saf­fron, toma­toes and stock. Bring to the boil, then sim­mer un­til the stock is re­duced by half. Cut the fish into chunks and cook for 2 min­utes. Add the shell­fish and cook un­til the shells be­gin to open and the prawns are pink. Sea­son and sprin­kle with fen­nel fronds.

Fish stock

Makes about 1.25 litres

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS: 1kg fish bones and heads, from sole, hal­ibut, etc 125ml dry white wine 1 large onion, chopped 1 fen­nel bulb, chopped 1 bay leaf 3 sprigs flat-leaf pars­ley 3 sprigs thyme 1 tsp black pep­per­corns 1.5 litres water.

METHOD: Put the fish, wine, veg­eta­bles, herbs and pep­per in a large stock­pot and cover with the water. Sim­mer over a low heat for 20 min­utes, skim­ming as nec­es­sary, then strain through a fine mesh sieve or muslin.

This is an edited ex­tract from Soups by Anna Helm-Bax­ter, pub­lished by Hardie Grant Books. RRP $19.99 and avail­able in stores na­tion­ally.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

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