Today was my day off and I had to do that most draining domestic task – waiting at home for someone to turn up with a replacement debit card. It’s something that’s made doubly irritating by the vast window of opportunity for delivery – anytime between 9am and 5pm. Surely they could confirm whether it’s morning or afternoon? Just the vaguest indication would help. Why is this not possible? Does the delivery driver navigate from address to address led by primal instinct and the forces of the lunar tide, never knowing where the pull of the Thames will take him? Here’s a thought – why not try using an A-Z and a wristwatch?
Anyway, I was determined to be prepared for a day of incarceration and, despite getting in from work at gone midnight last night, I dragged myself out of bed super-early. I fell into Tesco for some waiting-at-home provisions, procured a vat of coffee and was back home long before my 9am vigil began.
You know where this is going…
I spent the day not having a shower in case I didn’t hear the doorbell, not talking on the phone in case they were trying to call me. But, of course, it got later and later. Finally, with a heavy heart and a familiar, defeated feeling I phoned the delivery company to be told that they’d attempted delivery at 11.35am but there was no one at the address.
Yes. Of course. Or just maybe your delivery driver had endured such a tough morning riding around sunny London, eating crisps and texting his mates and just couldn’t be bothered to walk up to the door and actually ring the bell in the traditional fashion. ARGHHHHHH!
The red mist descended and the murderous impulses swelled. I needed something to distract and calm me – I turned my attention to dinner. Something soothing and warming was required. Something that required the involved and sustained use of knives.
Fish soup then.
Basically this is my version of a fish soup with all the trimmings – chunky pieces of fish with, a sprinkling of chilli, lashings of pernod and those lovely French toppings – a really good spicy mayonnaise and gruyere-laced croutons. Although it’s a classic Marseille dish, I actually first had proper fish soup in The Witchery in Edinburgh – a lovely restaurant/hotel almost in the grounds of the castle. It’s a beautiful place for a special treat – the menu is really amazing with lovely bistro-type food all made with Scottish produce – and the wine list is a frankly intimidating leather bound Doomsday Book. With chapters and everything! Well worth a visit if you find yourself in Edinburgh on payday.
Anyway, their fish soup was a much fancier, smoother, veloute type of soup but my lower budget chunky stew version is pretty tasty.
And with lots of veg to viciously chop, it’s perfect for eliminating homicidal tendencies.
Fish soup with all the trimmings
Whatever sort of fish you have in the fridge/freezer – ideally a couple of types. I had some Sea Bream fillets, some chunky pieces of salmon and some prawns.
Slosh of Pernod (or Ouzo would be fine)
Couple of chillis
2 cloves garlic
A tin of tomatoes
Some fish stock or white wine
Whatever fresh herbs you have – I had fresh rosemary and bay leaves and then finished the dish with some fresh parsley before serving.
The rouille (yes I know it’s not an authentic rouille but I wouldn’t mention that just now if I were you as I’m still quite angry)
2 egg yolks
2 cloves garlic
Plenty of good olive oil – basically as much as the egg yolks will absorb
Pinch of saffron
Smidgeon of cayenne pepper
Half an old baguette sliced into thin rounds
Some gruyere-type cheese (I work in a cheese chop so got the most delicious 24 month aged Comte D’estive but, obviously, I’m showing off)
On a low heat, sweat the onions, chilli, celery, carrots and herbs in some butter until nice and soft, add the fennel seeds and continue to fry on a low heat for another couple of minutes. Slosh in some Pernod and reduce for a few minutes. Add a tin of tomatoes, another tin of water or fish stock and a final tin of white wine (use the empty tin of tomatoes to measure the stock and water – also uses up all the tomato residue) and then leave to simmer for half an hour.
In the meantime, slice the baguette thinly and toast on one side only. Flip over and sprinkle generously with the cheese. Set to one side.
For the rouille, mash the garlic cloves, saffron and a little salt in a pestle and mortar. Separate two egg yolks and add to the garlic mixture. Whisk the egg yolk/garlic mixture with a small whisk to blend both. Then add the olive oil literally drop by drop to begin with, whisking all the time. It’s a slow and wrist achey process but you’ll see when it starts to actually look like a mayonnaise – like the piccie below.
When your rouille is done, add your pieces of fish to the soup – keeping the heat down very low. You know how it works – any larger pieces should go in first and smaller pieces later so they’re all ready at the same time. After a few minutes your fish should be poached to perfection. At the very last minute grill the cheese side of the croutons.
To assemble, pile fish and soup into bowls and top with a generous spoonful of the rouille and a couple of croutons. Sprinkle with any remaining cheese and tuck in.