Fish Soup with Rouille

Fish Soup with Rouille
When I told my Mum I was making fish soup this week I could hear her nostalgia through the phone line as we both thought of the same thing, Dad’s fish soup. The memories of it are powerful, a deep tomato sauce spicy and imbued with pungent garlic. Our bowls would be overfilled with prawns, mussels, cod and salmon and we would always without fail eat it with hunks of white crusty bread slathered with salted butter which we would plunge into our soup bowls, gathering up fish and as it dripped with tomato sauce.

That said, this is nothing like my father’s fish soup so sorry if you are now longing for that dish instead of this one. When I began my soup that is exactly what I had intended but then halfway through the preparation I became sidetracked by the thought of the wonderful bouillabaisse I had at Ondine in Edinburgh last year which relies more on a stock based soup instead of tomato. So in the end this turned into a very bastardised version of that.

Now, the first thing you need to do when making a bouillibaissey type soup is to make your fish stock…

Guys, I could not be bothered with making a fish stock. Sometimes you just don’t want the faff to deal with fish heads and bones, cooking for hours then straining and blah blah blah. I had some chicken stock in the freezer so that was fine by me I decided. I will not decry you if you want to be less lazy than me, although I might think you were trying to show me up. You could buy fresh fish stock from the fishmonger which would make your version more authentic but I’d still be on top as I made my stock myself, despite the chefs in Provence scoffing and shaking their heads in disgust at me. Basically what I’m saying is that you need stock and you can be lazy about it. But not too lazy, heaven forfend did I hear you utter Knorr?

Fish Soup with Rouille

I served my soup with a rouille which is a traditional accompaniment to bouillabaisse and made with lots of garlic, saffron, bread and olive oil. However, I have messed around with that too and used white potato as a base for it instead of bread. Actually I used jersey royals which I’m sure in some circles I would be shot for. Restaurants tell us jersey royals should be prepared one way only, the soil should be lightly brushed away then the potato grazed with boiling water and served plainly with a kiss of butter so we can appreciate their sheer potato royalty. Well, I boiled it until it fell apart then blitzed it in my processor with oodles of garlic, chipotle, egg and olive oil. Yum. Although it was just laziness again as when I noticed I had a few jersey royals in, suddenly the shop with the correct floury potato seemed so far away. The good thing about using jersies is that you don’t need to peel them, I think it added to the flavour, although if you want a smoother rouille, you might want to do without the peel.

The rouille should have the consistency of a mayonnaise and if I haven’t done so already in this post I would just like to shame myself further as when I made the rouille I had to taste it, to check for seasoning, make sure I wasn’t adding too much chipotle in there etc. Then when I had got it just right, I took a few more tastes just to make sure. Yeah, that’s okay so far, but even then when I was so positively sure that I had got the flavour balance perfectly, I took just a few more spoonfuls. Then some more. Then some more. So, this sauce is like that. Prettee tastee.

It was lucky that I was spending the afternoon by myself as no one would have come near me after that, I went to say hello to the cat and it shot out of the room faster than a celebrity responding to the ice bucket challenge. So the rouille had depleted somewhat before it made it to the photos, but this recipe makes tonnes so you don’t need to worry if chef gets a little carried away. You only really need a dollop of it on your soup, but you may not be able to stop there and maybe possibly it might need to have its own bowl with a spoon for you to attack when you’ve finished your soup. That’s okay, there’s no judging here. But be warned, it is garlicky and then some.

It’s a bit of a family Friday today as I’ve talked about my Mum, my Dad and now I’m going to talk about my sister who gave me these gorgeous fish bowls last Christmas which she brought back for me from Spain. As soon as I opened them I was imagining bowls of rich fish soup and so I’m thrilled that the meal that I was planning 8 months ago has now finally come to pass. So now you know that I am always late as well as lazy.

Fish Soup with Rouille

Fish Soup with Rouille
Serves 4

600g Monkfish
500g Salmon fillet
8 Prawns
60ml olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 leek, sliced into thin rounds
½ fennel bulb, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, diced
1 red chilli, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp sun-blush tomatoes (optional)
1 beefsteak tomato, diced
2 tbsp tomato puree
¼ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
Grated zest of ½ small orange
120ml white wine
A pinch of saffron
1 litre stock, fish or chicken or vegetable

For the Rouille
300g cooked potato
A pinch of saffron
1 tsp chipotle in adobo (or harissa)
2 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
½ tsp salt
black pepper
100-150ml light olive oil

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, celery and leek. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the fennel, carrot, chilli and garlic cloves. Stir it all together on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Add the sun-blush tomatoes if you are using them, then stir in the beefsteak tomato, tomato puree, cumin, paprika and the orange zest. Cook for 5 minutes, then as the tomato is beginning to break down, add the white wine and saffron.
  3. Stir the wine through and as it begins to bubble pour in the stock and add seasoning.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and place the lid on the saucepan, cook for 30 minutes so the flavours get to know each other and the vegetables cook all the way through.
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and using an immersion blender, whizz up the soup so that it’s completely smooth. Check for seasoning.
  6. Prepare your fish by washing, removing the skin from the salmon and dicing the salmon and the monkfish. De-vein the prawns by snipping along their back shell with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, then pulling out the long black thread buried just underneath the surface of their backs.
  7. Chill the fish until ready to use.
  8. Heat up the soup on a gentle heat then once piping hot, add the fish and place the lid on the saucepan. Cook for about 5 minutes until the prawns turn pink and the monkfish and salmon are cooked all the way through. Try not to disturb the fish too much as you don’t want it to break up.
  9. Serve with a garnish of parsley and the rouille.
  10. To make the rouille, put the cooked potato in a food processor, along with the saffron, chipotle in adobo, garlic cloves and salt and pepper and mix together.
  11. Once it’s all turned to a lovely puree then add the egg yolk and whizz again.
  12. With the food processor on, pour in the olive oil in a very slow and steady stream as if you were making mayonnaise. How much depends on the potatoes you are using but you want it to be a thick mayonnaise consistency.
  13. When it’s ready, check for seasoning before removing it from the food processor and serving.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp

I had some trouble deciding whether to title this recipe as a shrimp or prawn dish. In Britain we think of shrimp as tiny and brown and often potted. In the USA shrimp basically means any kind of prawn. So because this is an American heritage recipe I will title the dish as shrimp but refer throughout my waffle to prawns so that will be nice and confusing for all involved.

It is food like this that we wanted to discover when we travelled to New Orleans last year and this particular dish was definitely one of the best food experiences in our entire trip to the Southern states. During our time in NOLA we stayed at a lovely guesthouse called The New Orleans Jazz Quarters. They have an excellent chef and we were treated to the most amazing breakfasts every morning. When we sought their good opinion for the best food to try during our trip, number one on their list was the barbecued shrimp at Mr B’s. This barbecued shrimp was bigged up big style, although, unlike the name suggests, there isn’t actually any barbecuing involved. Instead jumbo prawns are tossed in creole seasoning and then sautéed in peppery Worcestershire sauce and oodles of butter. Although a few places serve this dish in New Orleans we were promised that Mr B’s was the one to beat so naturally we made a reservation straight away.

Creole Seasoning  |  Stroud Green LarderMr B’s is a lovely well-heeled restaurant in the French Quarter bursting with black tie waiters and a clientele dressed in their Saturday evening finery. So when plastic bibs were tucked quickly into our clothing as soon as our gleaming prawns were reverently placed before us it all seemed a bit incongruous, and we looked like the naughty children at a grown ups party. It soon made perfect sense though as in no time we made the kind of mess children make in high chairs as we were snapping off prawn heads, sploshing around in the spicy buttery sauce and dunking our bread in the excess. It was nice not to get it all over my pretty dress.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp  |  Stroud Green Larder

Since we came back from New Orleans, which was about nine months ago now, my husband has been needling me to recreate this prawn extravaganza in our own kitchen. I was obviously being a bit slack at getting round to it as at Christmas he encouraged me further by including a New Orleans cookbook in my stocking and we haven’t been able to go past a fishmongers since then without him wondering out loud if they might have any tiger prawns in. To be honest I don’t know what was holding me back, as it’s such a quick dish to cook. The only real time consuming job is preparing the prawns. Ah, now I remember what was holding me back. I am embarrassed to admit that I am a little squeamish when it comes to fish and seafood. I think it might hark back to the childhood horrors of having to watch my mother gut the neverending stream of trouts that my grandfather used to bring back from his fishing trips. It’s very odd as I have no problem with butchery but there are certain jobs which are just not my favourites and any sort of messing around with raw fish is one of them.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp  |  Stroud Green Larder

Nevertheless, if you don’t mind staring at their beady little eyes then the job is simple enough. The first thing to do is to remove the intestinal tract, the grotty thin sack which runs the length of it’s back. It’s very easy to do so, just take a pair of very sharp kitchen scissors, insert at the tail where the shell begins and snip all along the back of the shell until you reach the head. Dip your fingers into the opening carefully and you will find the long stringy tract, it’s easy to spot as it will be filled with black gubbins. Once you take hold of the end of it you will be able to pull the whole thing out without a problem. Then discard. I decided to serve the prawns with the head and tail intact but the shell of the body removed. This means that the sauce can coat the prawn flesh thoroughly and the head and tail help lend a bit more prawny flavour when you are making the sauce. But really it just looks a little more fancy and you don’t have to get down and dirty with your prawn when you eat it since all the finicky bit has been removed. Use your scissors again to snip away the shell or just pull it away, along with the legs, as long as you are careful not to damage the head or tail.

I fiddled a bit with the amount of butter I was due to use in this recipe as something in me couldn’t quite bring myself to add all the butter that was intended. Mr B’s do not use the double cream at the end of their sauce but instead put in about another kilo of butter. I find that by reducing the butter and adding cream instead the sauce comes together quicker and lessens cholesterol worries by a tiny fraction, because let’s face it the ingredients of this sauce are not for the faint of heart. This supper was very well received by my household and although I’ve staved off the pestering for a week or two I know it won’t be long before I’m ushered back into the fishmongers to see if they have any tiger prawns in.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp  |  Stroud Green Larder

New Orleans’ Barbecued Shrimp
Inspired by Mr B’s Barbequed Shrimp
Serves 2

20 tiger prawns
120ml Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground white pepper
⅛ tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp creole seasoning (see below)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Good pinch of salt (feel free to use bacon salt like me)
150g unsalted butter, cubed
3 tbsp double cream

Prepare the prawns as described above by snipping along the back of the shell and remove the intestinal tract. Remove the body of the shell and also snip off the long dangly tentacles as they are just messy. Set aside.
Whisk together the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, peppers, creole seasoning, garlic and salt. Then pour into a large saucepan and heat over a medium heat.
When just about to boil, add the prawns and cook until just pink. Remove the prawns with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Turn the sauce down which should be reduced and syrupy and add the butter, once cube at a time whisking all the while.
Once the butter has been completely emulsified into the sauce add the cream and check for seasoning.
Once the cream has been incorporated, add the prawns back in for a minute or so until it’s all nice and hot.
Serve immediately with hunks of crusty bread and eat greedily with your hands.

Creole Seasoning
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe on the Food Network

2½ tbsp. sweet paprika
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp onion salt
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp oregano

Add all the ingredients into a clean jar and shake around. That’s it.