Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bouillabaisse – an update

Well, after last Friday, I know how to spell it, and, sort of, how to make it.  All I need to do now is find out how to pronounce it.  

It was agreed that cod cheeks are nearly as good as monkfish fillets, at a fraction of the price.  And that clams are a waste of space – you end up with empty shells.  Whole prawns too.  I’d rejected the giant nine-inch prawns (Dublin bay, langoustines, whatever they’re called) at £5.50 each, beautiful though they were, in favour of the smaller, though still huge, basic ones; but once you’ve picked the meat out of all that head and crawly bits and shell, you end up with quite a small bit of actual edible.  The picking’s fun, though: large finger bowls, plenty of napkins, and a sense of humour essential.

Also, is saffron the biggest con since Ponzi schemes?  (Answer, no, it predates them by centuries.  Or does it?  A question for another day.)   The stuff smells mildly nice and costs more, by weight, than avruga caviar.  Which, I told, at least tastes of something.  By the time you’ve diluted half a teaspoon of saffron into a litre of fish stock and white wine, all you’re left with is yellow.  Next time, I might try a pinch of that turmeric that’s been in the spice section for three years and probably doesn’t taste of much either by now.

I used Rick Stein’s recipe from ‘Taste of the Sea’, which worked fine, mostly, though it does contain a few quirks.  For example, you have to peel your tomatoes (no problem) and retain the skins – which are never seen again.  And he suggests that you should slice your mussels before adding them in the shell.  I somehow missed out the celery in the vegetable base, but I think I got away with it.

I have resolved to visit Frost’s in Smelly Alley more frequently (not hard, given twice in the past six years), buy whatever they tell me to, and take the meal from there.  Real-time cooking, as Keith Floyd used to say between slurps.


  1. That sounds absolutely gorgeous. And you understand food, which not that many people do.

  2. Turmeric's surprisingly good for you, btw. Throw that away, buy some more and use it, do.

  3. I love Boo*ya*beyz and I think turmeric is a fine substitute for that outrageous, overtouted saffron.
    Way to go, Tim.

  4. I have found that the more cooking I do, the more confident I am about deviating from the recipe and experimenting with the ingredients on offer.

    I've never even tasted a bouillabaisse, never mind tried to make one myself. Well done that man.

  5. Z, thank you for the compliment! I'm not sure I really understand food - from my limited experience you're a better cook than me - but I do enjoy faffing around with cooking.
    Lo, thanx 4 the pronunciation tip. I thought it was about that, but wasn't sure whether it was 'eyss' or 'eyz' at the end.
    Turmeric is wonderful stuff, I'm not sure Larousse Gastronomique would approve, but then again, WTF as they say.
    Liz, have a go! It's dead easy, and you must have a decent fishmongers near where you live?