French fish soup

This stunning seafood soup from Ed Baines includes a veritable feast of fish, and presents the perfect way to feed a crowd
By Ed Baines
French fish soup
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 8
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Effort: hard



  • 100 g boneless and washed squid
  • 450 g grey mullet fillets
  • 450 g red snapper fillets
  • 450 g sea bass
  • 20 small mussels, cleaned
  • 150 ml white wine
  • 2.5 litres fish stock
  • 1 bulbs fennel
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 red pepper
  • 5 plum tomatoes
  • 120 ml olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 strips of orange rind, finely shredded
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp thyme, leaves only
  • small bunch of dill
  • 3 tbsp pastis
  • black pepper

To serve:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • crusty bread or ciabatta bread


1. Cut the squid and the fish fillets lengthways into strips 2cm wide, then cut across each strip into slices 1cm wide. All the pieces of fish should be the same size and shape. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

2. Put the mussels in a large saucepan with a splash of white wine, cover and cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes until they have opened. Discard any that remain closed. Strain the mussel cooking liquor into the fish stock. Remove the mussels from their shells and reserve them. Discard the shells.

3. Cut the fennel bulb and onion into 6-8 wedges so that each wedge measures about 2cm at its thickest part. Cut the celery sticks lengthways in half. Cut the red pepper lengthways into strips 2cm wide and the tomatoes lengthways into 4 wedges. Then cut each of the vegetables across into thin, arc-like slices, making sure that they are all roughly the same size and shape - this is very important to the final look of the soup.

4. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole - an oven-to-table one would be ideal (or alternatively, use a large saucepan and transfer the soup to a tureen to serve). Add the fennel, onion, celery, red pepper, garlic, orange zest and chilli.

5. Cook over a low heat for about 4 minutes, until the vegetables are just softened. Add the tomato puree, fish stock, remaining white wine and tomatoes, and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the fish, the finely shredded bay leaves, the thyme, half of the dill and the Pastis.

7. Simmer for 3 minutes only (otherwise you will overcook the fish), adding the reserved cooked mussels for the final 30 seconds.

8. Serve the soup sprinkled with the remaining dill, together with little bowls of extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt and crusty bread. Instruct your guests (nicely!) to dip the bread first in the oil and then the salt, to eat the soup.

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