Seafood Bouillebaisse Soup Recipe

This is a wonderful French classic. Don’t be put off by cooking seafood, it really is quite simple, and makes a lovely meal. Start to finish will probably take you around 30-40 minutes (including all of the preparation). Make sure that you use the freshest and in season seafood and other ingredients to produce the most delicious bouillebaisse.

Seafood Bouillebaisse Soup Ingredients

NB, ensure that all of the seafood you purchase is fresh, not frozen. If you can’t find some of the seafood below, or they are not in season, ask your fishmonger what they would suggest in place, or leave out. You will need a large saucepan/stockpot and a fine sieve for this recipe.

This recipe will serve four as a hearty meal, or six as a lighter meal. Serve with toasted crusty sourdough bread and a green garden salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

  • 200g firm white fish fillet (such as blue eye trevalla, snapper etc), skin & bones removed, chopped into large bite sized pieces
  • 200g pink fish fillet (such as atlantic salmon or ocean trout etc), skin & bones removed, chopped into large bite sized pieces
  • 250g black mussels in shells, debearded and cleaned
  • 250g vongole (small clams) in shells, cleaned
  • 12 green king prawns in shells (don’t purchase peeled prawns, as you will need the prawn heads and shells for the soup)
  • 200g baby octopus, halved
  • 8 scallops, roe attached
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (such as sav blanc etc)
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato paste/concentrate
  • Generous pinch saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 french eshallots, finely chopped
  • 1 small bulb fennel (if available), finely chopped (leaves/fronds reserved for garnish)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or pressed through a garlic press
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, skin removed (plunge tomatoes into boiling water for a minute to make removing skin easier) and chopped finely (or 400g tin chopped tomatoes)
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Seafood Bouillebaisse Soup Method

In a large saucepan/stockpot, heat a good glug of oil. Saute the brown onion for a few minutes, over medium heat until golden brown. Add the prawn heads and shells, turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the prawns shells change colour. Pour in 1 cup of the wine, it should bubble up and release all of the caramelised bits from the base of the saucepan. Add the tomato paste, stir quickly to incorporate, then pour in the water and add bay leaves and saffron. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour the stock into a bowl through a fine sieve and discard the prawn heads and onion left in the sieve.

Rinse out the saucepan/stockpot. Add a good glug of olive oil to the saucepan, and lightly saute the eschallots and fennel (if using) over medium heat for a few minutes until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so. Turn the heat up, then pour in the remaining wine and allow to bubble. Add the chopped tomatoes and stock and stir to combine. You can do up to this step a day or so in advance, storing the saucepan in the fridge and then start from here when ready to serve.

Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer, then start to add the seafood, cooking with the lid on to steam the seafood slightly. Note that you should add the seafood according to cooking times (eg. prawns cook much quicker than fish, so add them a few minutes after the fish). Add the fish first, cook for a minute, then add the mussels and clams, then the prawns and finally the scallops and octopus. The cooking of the seafood will only take around 5-7 minutes. Be careful when stirring the soup, as you don’t want to break up the fish.

To serve, place seafood in warm individual serving bowls, and pour over a couple of ladels of the bouillebaisse soup and sprinkle with a generous amount of parsley, orange zest and fennel fronds. Serve with buttered sourdough bread and a green garden salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette.