21 February, 2007

Bourride Sètoise

Bourride is a classic Mediterranean fish soup which is somewhat less complicated and expensive to make than bouillabaisse. There are various local variations. In Sète they make it with monkfish on its own, but in Marseille they use a mixture of firm white fish. Some people serve the broth on its own, followed by the fish and vegetables with boiled potatoes and aioli. You can put the slices of bread in bowls and pour the soup over them. However this version is restrained and elegant – you could serve it as a first course at a dinner party. It is said that when the Greek gods got bored with Olympus they came to Marseille to eat bourride, this being the only food that was fit for the gods.

Note: don’t be put off by the amount of garlic that goes into it. The soup itself tastes creamy rather than garlicky, and it’s up to you how much aioli you spread on your bread.

This quantity serves 6-8 people.


1.5 kg monkfish or other firm white fish
1 orange
3 tomatoes
about 1/2 litre of olive oil
13 garlic cloves
2 large glasses of white wine
2 onions
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp saffron
juice of 1/2 a lemon
sprig of thyme
salt and black pepper

In a large pan bring to the boil the roughly chopped tomatoes and onions, 5 cloves of garlic, the thyme, saffron, orange zest, about 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, one glass of white wine, and 1 litre of water. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pound the remaining garlic to a puree in a pestle and mortar (or liquidise it if you are feeling lazy). Blend in 2 egg yolks and add salt and pepper. Gradually beat in the remaining olive oil in a thin stream, using a whisk, until you feel the aioli is thick enough. Add lemon juice to taste and leave on one side. Reward yourself for your efforts by drinking the other glass of wine.

Cut the skinned and boned fish into chunks (about 1 inch square) and add it to the saucepan. Poach for 15 minutes. Then remove the fish with a draining spoon and keep warm. Sieve the stock and discard the vegetables. Return the stock to the pan and reheat gently. Take about half of the aioli and beat the remaining egg yolk into it. Then slowly pour the warmed stock onto it, stirring constantly. Return this mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until it thickens slightly. It should be like rather thin custard. Don’t let it boil, or it will curdle. Divide the cooked fish between serving bowls and pour the soup over it. Serve with thin slices of toasted French bread and the remaining aioli.

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