The story goes that bouillabaisse was originally invented by fishermen who boiled the fish that were too bony to sell.
Tomatoes were added in the 17th century, and by the 19th century the dish was becoming more luxurious, with the addition of fish stock, saffron and - later on - shellfish.
The name comes from the recipe. The soup is boiled (bolhir in Occitan) and then every time a different fish is added, the heat is lowered (abaissar in Occitan).
It can either be served in one dish or the fish can be removed and served separately. It is often accompanied with garlic croutons, rouille (a Provençal sauce made from chilli peppers, garlic, and breadcrumbs blended with stock) or aioli (mayonnaise with garlic).
A real bouillabaisse requires a selection of fresh fish which is not always available in supermarkets, so here is a simplified version using easily available ingredients.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 small head of fennel chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée
100ml dry white wine
750ml fish stock
6 large fresh tomatoes chopped
Large pinch saffron
1 kilo cleaned mussels (throw away any that don't close when tapped)
350g cod (cabillaud) cut into pieces
1 sea bass (loup) filets, cut into pieces
200g fresh peeled prawns
Salt and pepper
Fry the onion and fennel gently in the olive oil for five minutes.
Add the garlic, tomato purée, wine, and fish stock and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the mussels and boil until they are all open (four to five minutes). If any don't open, throw them away.
Leave some mussels in their shells, take the rest out of their shells and reserve.
Blend the soup (you may need to sieve it to get it completely smooth) and add the cod and sea bass.
Simmer for a few minutes and then add the rest of the mussels and the freshly peeled prawns. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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You'll find the 12 other recipes in Travel France from your kitchen in our Food and Drink section. We also feature recipes every month from local chefs in our 'French Living' culture and lifestyle pullout included in our monthly print edition.
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