culinary review

Simplified Bouillabaisse - Fish Soup

Last Modified: 06/27/14
First Published: 12/06/07
Views: 6484
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Views: 6484

Bouillabaisse (or Fish soup) is wonderfully rich and filled with flavor. Traditionally, Bouillabaisse was the soup fishermensoup made in Marseilles, France. The catch of the day was put in a pot and let simmer along with vegetables. A true bouillabaisse contains no less then 5 different kinds of fish (sometimes even 7), along with shrimp and mussels. In this version, we cheat a little and simply add white fish, shrimp, mussels and clams. And even though this soup technically lacks a few different sorts of fish, it is simply delicious.

Saffron adds a beautiful color as well as an interesting undertone. If however, someone doesn't like saffron, you could omit it from the recipe and place a bowl of bloomed saffron in water on the table. Then, anyone who likes it can add a spoonful to their bowl of soup.

If you buy shrimp with the peel on, you can make a wonderful stock by boiling the peel in water (or you can ask your fish monger for scrap pieces which you can utilize when making stock). If you make your own fish stock, it will do much for the soup by adding depth and flavor. In a pinch though, you could use vegetable broth. Serve this soup along with some nice aioli and some crusty bread, and to drink, a nice glass of chilled white wine.


6 - 8 servings


  • 1 gram saffron (or about 10 strands)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced (fennel leaves included)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • ½ lemon
  • ¾ cup white wine (or dry Vermouth)
  • 4 cups of fish stock (or vegetable stock in a pinch)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound white fish (such as tilapia or cod)
  • 1/2 pound crab meat
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound mussels (or clams), cleaned and debearded (or cooked, frozen mussels if no fresh are to be found)
  • 2 cans of chopped clams
  • Salt and pepper to taste


First of all, pour some hot water over the saffron so it can bloom.

Saute the onion, carrots, celery and fennel in the olive oil for a about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, the diced tomatoes, the bay leaf, the thyme, the dill, half a lemon and the wine. Let simmer for a few minutes. Then add the fish stock, bring to a simmer, add the cream. Taste, and possibly add some spices if it is too bland.

Make sure all the fish is cut in pieces. Add the fish, the raw shrimp (if cooked, ad one minute before serving), the mussles (or clams) and the cans of chopped clams. Let the soup simmer for about 3-5 minutes, or until the fish has turned white and the mussels have opened. Add the saffron and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a nice aioli and some crusty bread.