Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Best of Pot Luck: Beat the New Year Blues with This Infinitely Variable Fish Stew, Writes Nicholas Clee

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Best of Pot Luck: Beat the New Year Blues with This Infinitely Variable Fish Stew, Writes Nicholas Clee

Article excerpt

This column has quoted Elizabeth David's sensible advice on the subject of cassoulet (which may, she says, be infinitely varied as long as it is not treated as a dustbin). Here she is on another French classic, bouillabaisse: "It is useless attempting to make a bouillabaisse away from the shores of the Mediterranean." Forbidding at first sight, the remark is in fact wonderfully liberating. You can make a fish stew, and you do not have to live up to the standards that you imagine a bouillabaisse should reach. As David says, there are numerous versions of the dish, all claiming to be authentic: why should your variation be inferior? Even if you are preparing it in, say, Uttoxeter.

Look on a bouillabaisse recipe, then, as a useful template for a very nice meal. The base ingredients, in addition to the fish, include onions, leeks, tomatoes, orange peel or zest, and saffron; aniseed notes from fennel and--if you like--pastis are good, too. If you are not using pastis, you might consider white wine; that may be "culinary heresy", in the words of an authority quoted by David, but you have already decided to ignore such taunts. It is worth borrowing, too, a technique from the recipe: that of fast boiling, which blends the oil with the stock and thickens the sauce. The large quantity of liquid in the pot acquires a surprising amount of body.

My fishmonger--I realise that I am lucky to be able to use those words--sold me some offcuts to make a stock. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.