Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates the ultimate French fish stew

Bouillabaisse is a soup Bill has always loved, and still dreams of one day tasting in its home town

Recently we went for a weekend away with the kids to the South of France. We landed in Marseille and, never having been before, were determined to try an authentic bouillabaisse. Armed with a recommendation from a friend of a friend, we typed the address into our sat nav and set off in our rented car to what we imagined would be a lovely rustic fisherman's restaurant with rickety, laminated tables and seafood to die for.

Instead, we found ourselves travelling further and further away from the shore, until we got to these big imposing gates that led to a very smart, old-fashioned restaurant. It ended up being a seafood restaurant that specialised in truffles, with beautiful yet elaborate food and impeccable, formal service. Disappointingly, nothing like the casual simplicity we had wanted.

There we were, already ragged from our flight, now having to put on a brave face to avoid mutiny from the kids. They say that behind every misadventure lies a good anecdote, but to be honest I was so terrified about how much this whole "budget weekend" was now going to cost us that I don't think I enjoyed a minute of it…

So here is my bouillabaisse, a soup I've always loved, and still dream of one day tasting in its home town. What I love about it is how the soup base, already packed with flavour to begin with, is given a big punchy lift with a dollop of spicy, garlicky rouille.

I've used fish and seafood I can find easily at my local fishmonger rather than the Mediterranean fish traditionally used in bouillabaisse. Never having tasted the real thing in Marseille, I can't vouch for how authentic it tastes, but I'm pretty happy with the result.

Bouillabaisse

Take all the separate elements of the dish to the table together for people to help themselves. I like to put a crouton at the base of my bowl then add a little bit of everything before pouring over a ladleful of broth. Yum.

Serves 6-8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved
3 garlic cloves, sliced
½ tsp fennel seeds
Large pinch chilli flakes
Large pinch saffron strands
2 wide strips orange peel
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
1kg white-fish bones (ask your fishmonger for some clean carcases)
1 large or 2 small snappers, gutted, gills removed and cut into chunks
500g firm white-fish fillet, cut into chunks
12 whole raw prawns
500g mussels, cleaned
300g clams, cleaned

To serve

Boiled potatoes
1 large baguette, sliced and toasted
Rouille (see recipe below)
Parsley
Lemon wedges

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan, add the onion, leek, celery, fennel and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the fennel seeds, chilli flakes, saffron, orange peel, tomatoes and bay leaves.

Allow guests to serve the fish and broth as they please Allow guests to serve the fish and broth as they please (Laura Edwards)
Cook for a further minute. Add the fish bones then pour in 1.7 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into a large, clean pan, using a wooden spoon to push as much goodness through the sieve as you can.

Return to the boil. Add the snapper and white fish and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Add the prawns, cook for another 2 minutes then tip in the mussels and clams and simmer for 2 minutes, or until opened. k Using a slotted spoon, lift the cooked fish on to a platter. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning with salt and chilli. Ladle a little broth over the fish to keep it moist.

Serve the platter and broth with boiled potatoes, baguette croutons, rouille (see below), parsley and lemon wedges.

Rouille

Being a chilli junkie, I've given this rouille quite a kick with chilli and plenty of garlic.

Serves 6-8

30g day-old bread, torn
3 tbsp fish stock (I use the strained bouillabaisse broth)
75g bought roasted peppers
Pinch saffron strands
1 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
225ml olive oil
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt

Quite a kick: rouille with toasted baguette Quite a kick: rouille with toasted baguette (Laura Edwards)
Soak the bread in a bowl with the fish stock for 5 minutes, until softened. Tip into the bowl of a food processor and add the peppers, saffron, chilli and garlic. Blend until smooth. Add the egg yolk and, with the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil to make a thick rouille. Stir in the cayenne pepper and salt. Tip into a bowl, cover and keep chilled until you are ready to serve.

Crisp green salad

No meal is complete for me without a big helping of something green. This fresh, crunchy salad is a great way of cleansing your palate between helpings of bouillabaisse.

Serves 6-8

150g green beans
2 baby gem lettuces, leaves separated
1 large fennel, sliced with a mandolin, fronds reserved
1 cucumber, cut into chunks

For the vinaigrette

½ tbsp Dijon mustard
Squeeze of lemon
½ tbsp white-wine vinegar
Pinch caster sugar
4 tbsp light olive oil

This fresh, crunchy salad is a great way of cleansing your palate between helpings of bouillabaisse This fresh, crunchy salad is a great way of cleansing your palate between helpings of bouillabaisse (Laura Edwards)
Blanch the beans in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes, until just tender. Drain and refresh in cold running water. Arrange on a serving platter with the lettuce, fennel and cucumber.

Now make the vinaigrette. Whisk the Dijon and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and sugar and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking as you go. Drizzle over the salad and scatter over the fennel fronds before serving.

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com. Granger & Co Clerkenwell has just opened at 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7251 9032. Follow Bill on Instagram at bill_granger

Food preparation: Marina Filippelli; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

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