1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 red capsicum (bell pepper) , chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
400 g (14 oz) tinned chopped tomatoes
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
225 ml (73⁄4 fl oz) fish stock
sachet of saffron or 1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 handful chopped basil
salt and pepper, to season
900g (2 lb) chopped, mixed fish fillets
zest of 1⁄2 an orange
Fry the vegetables, chilli and garlic with the olive oil over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, purée, stock, saffron and basil.
Season using plenty of freshly ground pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add the fish and orange zest and cook for a further 15 minutes. A good slug of Pastis at this point (Ricard, ideally) will add that little touch of je ne sais quoi, especially if you put another one into the soup!
You need something not too delicate for the fish. A bit of gurnard, dogfish or conger would be ideal, together with some coley or mullet (which are much more readily available from supermarkets), all chopped into smallish chunks.
Part II: Version Bouillabaisse
That superb starter can also become a truly stunning main course. You’ve already done all the work so the rest is easy. Simply chop 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) of peeled boiling potatoes into bite-sized chunks and add them to the soup with the fish and the orange zest. For the last 5 minutes or so, add whatever is going to be the pièce de résistance—thick pieces of Monkfish tail would be ideal and/or a couple of those giant prawns (shrimp) or a langoustine each. Just send it all out together in a vast bowl; it’s that sort of dish.
Serve with croutons, rouille (see recipe) and grated gruyère cheese. A couple of bottles of chilled Minervois rosé are more or less mandatory.
La Vie Paysanne, New Holland Publishers RRP$35.00, available from all good book retailers or online www.newhollandpublishers.com