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Dad’s Provençal Seafood Soup


Continuing the French theme, here is my Dad’s take on a Provençal fish soup or stew. It's similar to a bourride, using many of the same aromatics, but without the egg yolks. Also, a traditional bourride is usually just fish, but Dad uses a range of seafood.

I asked him to send me the recipe, which was characteristically vague – a pinch of this, a slug of that, “loadsa garlic”. Having eaten it many times when I was younger I was able to guesstimate, but I have tried to make it more user-friendly for you. However, there are some things that are hard to quantify and that are really up to you. For example, the amount of stock depends on the consistency you want; how much saffron depends on the quality of the saffron and how much you like the taste of it; what seafood you use is up to you, which means it is hard for me to give accurate cooking times.

I made this for my flatmates a few weeks ago and they both thought it was fab. I didn’t think it was quite as good as Dad’s, but then these things never are when you try to replicate them, are they?

“What do you think is missing?” asked Jen.

“I don’t know. A little bit of love?”

Actually I think there are probably two reasons that are more easily resolved. One, Dad said I should use chardonnay, but I only had sauvignon blanc. Sauv blanc has higher acidity and along with the tomatoes, which are also highly acidic, the flavour was more tart than I remember his being. Two, winter in England is not a good time to buy fresh tomatoes so I used tinned, whereas Dad makes this during the summer in Australia with juicy, overripe tomatoes.

I should also add that Dad recommends that you make your own prawn stock if you are using prawns. "I think prawn stock gives the dish a real boost" he says. Buy ones with the shells on and peel them first. "Cover the shells with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins." Simple.

Dad always serves this with a rouille or aioli, which you can either dollop on top of the soup or use instead of butter on crusty bread before dunking. I usually do a bit of both.

Serves 4, though you can always add more seafood to serve up to 6.



1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 fennel, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
400ml white wine, preferably chardonnay-style
800g fresh, overripe tomatoes, peeled and diced (or 2x 400g tins tomato)
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1 chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped, or to taste
1 bay leaf
Pinch saffron
2 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
Approx 750ml fish or prawn stock, or enough for desired consistency
Approx 1kg fish/shellfish of your choosing, e.g.:

1 x200g fillet firm white fish, deboned and diced
250g prawns (or 400g with shells on)
400g clams or mussels
150g squid, cut into rings

1 handful parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

To serve

Rouille or aioli
Crusty bread or croutons


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sweat the onions, fennel, garlic, celery and carrot over a low heat until soft. Turn up the heat, add 300ml of the white wine, simmer and reduce. Add the tomatoes, peppers, chilli, bay leaves, thyme and saffron and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes, or until reduced. 

Add as much fish or prawn stock as you need to achieve your desired consistency. Bear in mind that when the fish and shellfish are added it will become more liquid; you can always add more later.

Simmer for 5 mins, then add all the seafood, except the mussels or clams if you are using them. Simmer until just cooked; this will take about 5 minutes, but depends what seafood you are using. You can add them separately, remove them just before they are cooked and then add them all at the end, but I find they tend to cook in roughly the same amount of time.

Meanwhile, put a saucepan over a high heat and add the remaining 100ml white wine. Let it bubble for 10 seconds, then add the mussels or clams if you are using them (skip this step if not). Cover with a lid and let them cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add most of the parsley to the stew and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley and mussels or clams if you are using them. Serve immediately with aioli or rouille and crusty bread or croutons.

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Reader Comments (3)

It looks as good as dads! This has reminded me he hasn't made it in a while...perhaps it shall be my next dinner suggestion- although ma finds it too rich so maybe ill wait till she's on your side of the world?!
Looks delicious Vix!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

I have actually eaten your Dad's Provençal fish soup in Balmain. It was so spectacular, I still tell people about it. Great post, great blog Vicky. Love from New Zealand. Xx

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Abbott-Walker

Cha - definitely request it! And maybe ask him to compare to my recipe while he is making as any adjustments would be welcomed :) x

Meg - lucky you! You have probably had it more recently than me then. Hope married life is treating you well. Thanks for your kind words and comment :) x

March 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterVix

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