Bouillabaisse: A Mediterranean Fish Soup


What a delight to savour this wonderful bouillabaisse soup brought to us by the fishermen of France.

Variously described as '...a mystical experience, a magical synthesis, a divine seduction and the reason God invented fish...' (Peter Mayle: Provence A–Z), bouillabaisse was originally made by the French fishermen using what they had left of the days catch. They would use any fish, so you too can make it using a mixture of fish for this wonderful meal.

Although it is known as fish soup, it is a substantial meal on its own, and, unless you have the constitution of an ox, I strongly advise you not to have a starter.

It is so nutritious and heart warming that everyone will enjoy it. This is a recipe you will treasure, but do note that the French themselves will argue loud and long about where you will get the best bouillabaisse, but Marseilles does seem to be the favourite, and it was the chefs of Marseilles who in 1980 defined the rules, yes, rules, for making the veritable bouillabaisse; it goes without saying that anyone eating what they believe is bouillabaisse other than at a Bouillabaisse Charter restaurant, is making do with a poor imitation.


1 kg (2.2 lbs) of mixed fish such as monk fish, John Dory, conger eel,
lemon sole, cod, plaice, grey mullet, gunard, weever...virtually anything.

2 onions finely minced

1 carrot, cut in chunks

1 stalk celery, cut in chunks

3 tomatoes, peeled and seeded

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 bouquet garnish

1 packet of saffron powder

stale bread

½ cup of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup Pastis (optional but really beautiful!)


In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, pour in the olive oil, the crushed garlic, minced onion, tomatoes, bouquet garnish, and saffron.

Add the fish bones and the pastis!  Keep the fish fillets for later.

Add salt and pepper.

Cover with water and bring to the boil, then cook gently for about 30 minutes.

Strain the stock and remove the bones and vegetables.

Place the fish into the bouillon (the stock you have just made) and cook gently for about 30 minutes.

While it is cooking, prepare the bread cutting it into slices and rub each slice with garlic.

When ready to serve you can either place the bread in the soup bowls, sprinkle with cheese and ladle your delicious soup on top, or serve the bread separately you please.

What a wonderful experience. I was invited into the kitchen at Le Miramar restaurant  in Marseilles to see the man who made the bouillabaisse, before sampling his skills at the table. It just couldn't get better! – well, it could...I could have had longer to eat it rather than have to rush off to an appointment an hour's drive away. 

With bouillabaisse you should not plan on doing anything strenuous afterwards; maybe just sleep it off.

Wonderful! Bouillabaisse from the fisherman's boat! But, there is no suggestion that the above recipe matches that decreed by the Bouillabaisse Charter...I wouldn't dare!

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