Damien Pignolet's bouillabaise


  • Serves 6 - 8 people

A deep roasting pan may accommodate all the fish here but note that the pans will go from the oven to the table and should look handsome. Set the table with knives, forks, soup spoons and shellfish forks, plus a nut-cracker or two. The bouillion makes double what you need, but could be halved, or the remainder frozen for another time.


  • 1 white baguette (not sourdough), sliced thinly crossways
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 large Roma tomatoes, scored, blanched, peeled and seeded
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, a few stalks reserved for the bouillion, plus extra to serve
  • 1 small lobster (800gm), placed in the freezer for 45 minutes to render it insensible (see note)
  • 3 kg mixed fish fillets and fish cutlets (such as red mullet, red spot whiting, rock cod, leatherjacket, John Dory, snapper and blue-eye trevally), cut into 5cm-6cm pieces
  • Bouillion
  • 2 red spot whiting (about 500gm-600gm), ungutted, chopped
  • 1 small rock cod (500gm), gutted, chopped
  • 4 red mullet (400gm), ungutted, chopped
  • 1 flathead (300gm), gutted, chopped
  • 1 leatherjacket (200gm), coarsely chopped
  • 1 snapper head with backbone (370gm), carefully scrubbed and gills removed
  • 10 raw king prawns (60gm each), 4 chopped into thirds, remaining left whole
  • 5 raw blue swimmer crabs (310gm each), split and stomach and tail discarded
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 head baby fennel, trimmed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small leek (white part only), washed, thickly sliced
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, halved crossways
  • 1 small head garlic, halved crossways
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste, mixed with 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, plus 6 pinches extra to serve
  • 1 small baby dried bay leaf, plus 6 extra to serve
  • Small bunch of thyme, coarsely chopped, plus 3 tsp leaves extra to serve
  • 1 tsp saffron threads, toasted, plus 6 pinches extra to serve (see note)
  • Rouille
  • 50 gm day-old crustless bread, torn into pieces
  • 1-2 long red chilies, finely chopped, seeds removed (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, green shoots discarded
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads, toasted (see note)
  • ¼ smoked paprika (optional)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 200 ml extra-virgin olive oil
01   For the bouillon, combine fish, chopped prawns and 2 of the crabs with 1 tsp salt in a large stockpot, place under cold running water and stir well to ensure everything is thoroughly rinsed, which helps to produce a clearer bouillon (8-10 minutes).
02   Transfer to the most powerful burner on the stove or a wok burner, add remaining ingredients, including parsley stalks, 1 tbsp salt and some pepper, cover well with cold water and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer very gently, without skimming, until stock is well flavoured (about 1 hour), then rest for 1 hour.
03   Strain bouillon through a conical sieve, pressing and pounding with a pestle or ladle to extract all the juices, into a clean saucepan. (This step may be done ahead; stir bouillion in smaller quantities until cooled before refrigerating.)
04   Meanwhile, preheat oven to 160C and bake baguette croûtons slightly overlapping on a baking tray until pale golden (9-10 minutes).
05   For rouille, simmer 150ml bouillon in a small saucepan over high heat until reduced to 60ml (4-6 minutes). Remove from heat, add bread and work to a paste. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, add chillies, garlic, mustard, saffron and paprika, and pound to combine, then, while stirring, work in yolks and ¼ tsp salt until smooth. Add oil in a thin steady stream, working with the pestle (or a small whisk) until thick and emulsified. Add 1 tbsp more hot bouillon and season to taste, cover directly and set aside. Do not refrigerate. Rouille should be made the day it’s to be served.
06   Brush 2 shallow braising pans or 26cm-27cm frying pans with olive oil. Scatter onion, garlic, tomato, parsley and extra spices and herbs over evenly and arrange lobster, fish, remaining prawns and crab in a single snug layer on top. This may be done ahead and refrigerated covered. Remove from fridge 20 minutes before cooking.
07   Bring bouillon to a rapid boil, and heat prepared pans over high heat, then immediately ladle boiling bouillon into pans, shaking pans to loosen base. Return to the boil (4-5 minutes), then reduce heat to medium, and simmer, shaking pan occasionally and turning fish, until fish is just cooked (about 10 minutes; start checking doneness after 5 minutes). Scatter bouillabaisse with parsley and serve with rouille and croûtons. Have plenty of finger bowls of hot water withlemon slices, and paper napkins on the table.
NoteTo prepare the lobster, place it tail flat on a board, hold the body firmly, then push a strong, sharp knife between the eyes. To separate the tail from the carapace, insert a thin-bladed knife hard against the upper part of the head, then cut through. Turn the carapace over and repeat to sever the tail. Holding the tail in one hand and body in the other, using a tea towel to protect your hand from the spikes, twist and pull gently to dislodge the tail. Make a small incision in the underside of the tail and pull out the digestive tract from the fleshy end. Cut between each joint of the tail shell, then, using kitchen scissors, cut each joint in opposite directions so you have jointed pieces. Reserve the head for stock. Frozen lobster tails work well here, too. To toast saffron, warm saffron in a 100C oven for 10 minutes.










Oct 2016

Oct 2016

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