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Marseille Bouillabaisse a Provencal Classic

What is your favourite fish soup?

Residents of Marseille are adamant that French fishermen eked basic sustenance from their unsightly leftover fish bits concocted this fish broth/soup/stew on the shores of the now sprawling metropolis. The name for this dish is derived from two actions bouillir (to boil) and abaisser (to reduce or simmer). However, in the intense world of “Iron-chef” gastronomy, the origins of bouillabaisse are up for debate. …Continue reading here to learn about the origins of this Marseillais classic and for the recipe.

Fishing near Marseille #Provence @PerfProvence

Marseille Classic Bouillabaisse

Marseille Classic Bouillabaisse

A Bouillabaisse, to be served in perfect conditions, should be prepared for a party of at least 6 to 7. This allows the cook to purchase a wider variety of fish. You will have to be persevere to find all the different types of fresh Mediterranean fish. If you are far from the Mediterranean, use your local white fleshed fish. The recipe proposed here, consists in poaching the bigger fish into the small fish soup. It is the luxury version of the recipe, as it differs from the original fishermen who were simply recuperating the damaged and unsold parts. Follow the steps to create this a gastronomic recipe.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
Servings 8 People


For the Fish Soup

  • 2Kg (4.5 lbs) Small fish such as bream, bass, haddock, mullet or gurnard
  • 1Kg (2.2 lbs) Fish trimmings and bones, including heads,
  • 2 Leeks
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 2 Large Ripe tomatoes and 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Saffron threads
  • 3-4 Dried fennel branches
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • Salt & Pepper
  • olive oil

For the Rouille

  • 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) Oil (½ olive oil & ½ sunflower oil)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 tsp Mustard
  • lemon juice from ½ of a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Saffron threads
  • 1 tsp Paprika

For the Bouillabaisse

  • 3-400 gr (1/2-3/4 lbs) Assorted Rock Fish 300-400 gr per person - see note below
  • 2 Medium Onions
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Medium Potatoes per person
  • 2 Large Ripe tomatoes Beefsteak or if in Provence a local variety
  • 2 tsp Saffron threads
  • 2 Dried fennel branches
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Pastis


For the Fish Soup

  • Clean and cut the leeks and the onions and brown them in a large stock pot on high in 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
    Leeks and Onions
  • Add the roughly chopped tomatoes, the bay leaves, fennel branches, crushed garlic, 4 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste.
  • After about 5 minutes of stirring, add the small fish, the trimmings, bones and heads.
  • Keep stirring above on high heat for 5 minutes add salt and pepper.
  • Add 2 liters of hot water and a dose of saffron. Once the pot is boiling, turn the heat to low-medium for an extra 15 minutes. Then allow to cool.
  • After it has cooled, strain the liquid into a pot. Retain the bones, fish heads, branches etc in a strainer.
  • To maximize the flavour press remaining liquid out of the leftover bits using a pestle or heavy spoon. Empty your strainer from the more solid parts, and repeat.
  • The slightly cloudy liquid is considered the soup, the base for the fish. The soup is delicious on its own as the flavour is quite intense.

For the Rouille

  • In a small mixing bowl, add the egg yolk (at ambient temperature).
  • Add salt and one teaspoon of mustard.
  • Mix the ingredients together, and add the oil pouring very slowly. It is important to always keeping stirring with a fork or a whisk while you are adding the oil.
  • Before you finish adding the oil, add the lemon juice, the crushed garlic, saffron, paprika and pepper.
  • Sample the rouille and add more of the spices to suit your taste.
    Rouille #Provencal #Recipe @ProvenceCook
  • Set aside in the fridge for later.

For the Bouillabaisse

  • In a large stock pot (large enough to have all of your bigger fish laying flat), spread successively the following ingredients laying flat.
    Bouillabaisse Provence Recipe @ProvenceCook
  • First the thinly sliced onions and the crushed garlic with olive oil, then the potatoes sliced ½ cm (1/5 of an inch), fennel branches, bay leaves, the peeled and thinly sliced tomatoes, saffron and pastis.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Add the hard flesh fish on top of the above ingredients. On a high heat leave leave the pot 5 to 10 minutes without stirring, but lightly shaking the pot to avoid burning the onions.
    Bouillabaisse Provence Recipe
  • Pour the re-heated soup (step #1) over the fish to cover. If there is not enough add a little water. The timing for cooking is now crucial.
    Bouillabaisse Provence Recipe
  • When the soup in the pot is boiling, lower the heat to medium (to a light boiling) for 5 minutes.
  • Then add the tender fleshed fish (they should be covered by the soup as well). Cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Check if your fish is cooked (white to the bone). If not, put it back in the warm soup for a few extra minutes.
  • Remove the fish as they are cooked and keep warm.
  • Remove the potatoes slices and set aside (keep warm).
  • Filter the soup through a strainer to recuperate the soup only.
  • On table set the soup, the fish with potatoes and the Rouille.
  • Some will prefer starting with the soup, adding garlic croutons topped with rouille & grated cheese, and finish with the fish. Others will have their fish & potatoes sauced with the soup using rouille as a mustard.


Note for the fish: Select 300 to 400 grams per persons for the bigger fish.
Ideally a mixture of fish with a rather harder flesh such as: Red Rascasse fish, Sea Robin, capon fish, weever, Monkfish, and European conger. And, also a selection of fish with tender meat such as: roucaou, sea bass, Gilt head bream, St Peter (John Dory), whiting
Try to buy different types of fish of a similar size (about 300 to 400 gr each) and as the fishmonger to clean and scaled the fish.
Ideally with a Bouillabaisse serve a Bandol Rosé wine like Château de Pibarnon
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).


  1. blank
    April 29, 2016 at 10:31 am — Reply

    I’ve always wanted to make this dish! Do I have the gumption? :)

    • blank
      April 30, 2016 at 3:06 am — Reply

      Hi Jill: I am a huge bouillabaisse fan. It is actually a pretty simple dish to make despite all the steps. However, I admit the first time I attempted it was in the kitchen of a friend who is also a chef. :-)

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