David Scott AllenFish & SeafoodMain CourseProvencal RecipesTaste

Fish and Games a Recipe for Boulettes de Poisson à la Marsaillaise

This recipe is a play on words based the jeu (game) that appears to be at the heart and soul of many Provençaux – pétanque. Also know as boules, it is similar to bocce (bocchi) in Italy, but the old souls in Provence might never agree that the game has similar roots.

Petanque Boules Provence @GingerandNutmeg

The game is a right of passage for many along with special rules and secret clubs:

Pétanque Provence’s Other Religion

Pétanque the Story of Gaining Admission into a Circle of Trust in Provence – by Paul Shore

The game of boules was my inspiration for this post jeux de boulettes.

The other “religion” in Provence is food, and one of the region’s top chefs Gérald Passedat (Michelin 3-star) highlights seafood and fresh, local ingredients in his book Flavors from the French Mediterranean. The following recipe for Boulettes de Poisson à la Marsaillaise is an adaptation of a dish by Gérald Passedat. He is a masterful chef with a focus on showcasing updated regional cuisine. The tasting menu at le Petit Nice (luxury hotel and restaurant in Marseille) is created with locally sourced seafood from start to finish.


Boulettes de Poisson Marseillaise @Cocoa&Lavender

Boulettes de Poisson à la Marsaillaise {Marseille-Style Fish Balls}

This fish recipe was adapted from the book "Flavors from the French Mediterranean" by Michelin 3-star chef Gérald Passedat. This dish can be prepared in advance and assembled when you serve.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine French, Provencal
Servings 8 people


  • 2 pounds sea bream fillets cut into small dice*
  • 1 Moroccan preserved lemon rinsed (pulp removed) and chopped
  • 1 small bunch cilantro finely chopped
  • 2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch chives snipped
  • 2 shallots peeled and chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 3 cups Bread crumbs
  • 2 fennel bulbs cut in 1/3-inch dice, fronds reserved
  • 1 pound Potatoes peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 1 onion cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 1 sachet Saffron powder
  • 1 star anise
  • 9 cups fish stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Cook the shallot in a little olive oil over medium-low heat until clear.
  • In a large bowl, mix the cooked shallot, chopped preserved lemon rind, cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, and chives.
  • Add the diced fish, cumin, turmeric, and the eggs.
  • Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  • Shape this mixture into small balls (about 40), roll them in flour, roll them in your palms, then in bread crumbs to coat well.
  • Set them on a foil-lined baking sheet. It helps to rinse and moisten your hands every 4 balls or so. If you don't much of the mixture will stick to your hands. (Make these 4-6 hours ahead and refrigerate).
  • In a stock pot over medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil and cook the fennel, potatoes, and onion until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the saffron, star anise, and fish stock and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. (This can be made a day in advance, and reheated before serving.)
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. Drizzle the fish balls with a little olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • To finish, broil the balls for 2-3 minutes to add some nice colour.
  • Place 5 fish balls into 8 serving bowls.
  • Ladle the broth over the fish balls, garnish with fennel fronds, and serve.


You could also use monkfish, striped bass, turbot, or any firm white fish. I used tilapia, as Whole Foods forgot to place my order.
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David Scott Allen

David Scott Allen is the author, photographer, and cook behind Cocoa & Lavender, a weekly food blog based in Tucson, Arizona. Passionate about travel, he especially enjoys eating traditional foods and learning local customs, whether in the United States or around the globe.

David's first trip to France took place when he was 14, and he returned as often as possible thereafter. However, it wasn't until his 50th birthday that he finally made it south to Provence. The beauty, history, charm, warmth, cuisine, and - of course - the rosé wines captured his heart. He shares his Provençal recipes here on Perfectly Provence, and his food and wine pairings monthly on the Provence WineZine.

David is a firm believer that sharing a meal with friends around the table is one of life's greatest pleasures. And if it happens to be in Provence, all the better!


  1. Nicole
    April 16, 2018 at 9:22 am — Reply

    This recipe sounds divine! How did it turn out using tilapia? (not usually one of my favorites, albeit affordable). Had you thought of using cod? Like you, i have access to the usual selection at Whole Foods.. un grand merci!

    • April 16, 2018 at 2:18 pm — Reply

      Bonjour Nicole: I will let David answer the tilapia vs cod question as he is the master chef. Thanks for following Perfectly Provence.

  2. April 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm — Reply

    Bonjour, Nicole! The tilapia worked fine – it held its own. Sea bass would be better than cod, I think. Rockfish would also be good. The downside of tilapia is it’s firmness… for lack of better terms, it doesn’t “smush” well into a ball! Let me know if you try it, and what you think!

    • April 16, 2018 at 5:03 pm — Reply

      Merci David! Love the technical culinary terminology :-)

  3. Kate
    April 13, 2019 at 5:56 am — Reply

    Hello there and thank you for a great looking recipe! Could you provide a recipe or a list of ingredients for the fish stock please?

    • April 13, 2019 at 2:23 pm — Reply

      Hello Kate: This is from David Scott Allen at Cocoa & Lavender. The old fashioned way is to boil fish bones and heads together with a bouquet garni and some vegetable (onion, carrot, celery, and – especially good for certain recipes – fennel bulb. Of course it needs to be well-seasoned but remember to season gently, as salt doesn’t reduce as your liquid does.

      I have a “cheater’s way” to make a good fish, seafood, chicken, or meat broths. I keep several containers in my freezer each labeled: vegetables, shrimp shells, fish trimmings, chicken bones, and meat bones. I stuff that vegetable container – by far the largest container – full of leftover bits of onion, carrot, celery, fennel, leeks, and shallots. When I have a recipe that calls for broth, I take out a bunch of the vegetables (a couple handfuls), and then add the protein from the other bag. In this case, fish pieces… cover with water (one and a half times the amount of broth called for, season with herbs, and cook down. When it has reduce, strain and taste for seasoning.

      Hope this helps!

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