Wednesday 20 June 2012

For the Love of France

I have finally come to terms with it, I am definitely a Francophile. I have no idea why. I have no familial or childhood link to France and I hated learning French at school but for some reason, on a trip to Paris a few years ago,  I suddenly had a strong urge to start learning French again. I get these hair-brained ideas regularly but for some reason this one I actually did something about. A few months later I was enrolled in an advanced beginners French language class. I have been learning French for about two years now and I love it. But it's not just the language I love, it's the French style, the people and the food.

France really does have some beautiful dishes…and desserts…and pastries…and wines…and gosh I could go on for ever. And you’ll immediately know why they cook so well if you ever take a trip to a French hypermarket. The choice they have is amazing. The variety of produce and the freshness of their fruit and veg, for me it’s like going to Disneyland!

I have a few French dishes in my repertoire now. They tend to appear after we’ve eaten something nice in France and N asks me to try and recreate it at home. N loves French fish soup, I personally will never order a fish soup in a restaurant. Once they’ve blended it like that you no longer have any idea what’s in it – how many fish heads and carcasses went in to it is anybody’s wonder. My need to find a fish soup recipe arose on a trip around the supermarket. We had just returned from Paris and N clearly still had fish soup cravings. He insisted on buying bouillabaisse in a tin. I have never seen anything that looked and tasted so revolting. But he ate it all. It was then I realised that if he loved it so much I would have to find a way of making it.

My version is not truly authentic but I had to make sure I would eat it too! But I do try to serve it as authentically as I can. I accompany it with a cheat version of an aioli (mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, crushed garlic, salt and pepper), some grated cheese (cheddar is fine it doesn’t have to be fancy) and toasted French baguette. Bon appetit! 

Fish Soup
(serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter | total prep and cooking time 40 mins)

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion (red or white) – chopped
2 sticks of celery – chopped
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 large bay leaf
2 spring onions – chopped
2 small fillets of white fish (e.g. haddock or cod) – cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small can (227g) chopped tomatoes and juices
Pinch of dry chilli flakes
½ - 1 teaspoon of paprika
The leaves of a few sprigs of thyme
½ teaspoon of dry tarragon
100g vegetables e.g. peas or runner beans
1 pint fish stock
140g cooked prawns
A generous sprinkling of parsley
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat
  • Add the onion and celery and cook until they soften
  • Add the garlic and bay leaf and stir, cook for a few minutes
  • Add the spring onions
  • Add the chopped fish and stir gently, cook for approximately 5 minutes until the fish pieces start to become opaque. Do not stir too vigorously or the pieces will break
  • Add the tomato tin and juices and mix so the fish is evenly covered
  • Add the chilli flakes, paprika, thyme, tarragon and the seasonings. Cook for a few minutes so the herbs and spices can infuse
  • Ass the vegetables and stir
  • Add the fish stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add the cooked prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked (opaque all the way through and slightly flaky). Add more boiling water depending on your preferred consistency
  • Remove the bay leaf, top with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve

1 comment:

  1. This fish soup is amazing. Just tried it. Why would you ever resort to the tomato purée that the food stores sell as fish soup by adding a single stray mussel to the ingredients! Great recipe Preeti, keep them coming. I also am a Francophile BTW!!


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