PROVENCAL FISH SOUP

The rice makes this a substantial main meal soup. Basmati or Thai rice has the best flavor, but any long grain rice could be used. If using a quick-cook rice, cook the vegetables for longer before adding the rice.

SERVES FOUR TO SIX
INGREDIENTS
  • 450 g / 1 lb fresh mussels
  • about 250 ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup white wine
  • 675 - 900 g / 1½ - 2 lb mixed white fish fillets such as monkfish, plaice, flounder, cod, or haddock
  • 6 large scallops
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 red (bell) pepper, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm / 1 in pieces
  • 1 yellow (bell) pepper, seeded and cut into 2.5 cm / 1 in pieces
  • 175 g / 6 oz fennel, cut into 4 cm / 1½ in pieces
  • 400 g / 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • about 1.2 litre / 2 pints / 5 cups well-flavored fish stock
  • generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 15 ml / 1 tbsp hot water
  • 175 g / 6 oz / scant 1 cup basmati rice, soaked
  • 8 large raw prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 30-45 ml / 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, to garnish
  • crusty bread, to serve (optional)
  1. Scrub the mussels and pull off the beards, discarding any shellfish that do not close when tapped with a knife. Place them in a heavy pan. Add 90 ml / 6 tbsp of the wine, cover tightly, bring to the boil over a high heat and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until all the mussels have opened. Strain, reserving the liquid. Set aside half the mussels in their shells for the garnish; shell the rest and put them in a bowl. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
  2. Cut the fish into 2.5 cm / 1 in cubes. Detach the corals from the scallops and slice the white flesh into three or four pieces. Add the scallops to the fish and the corals to the mussels.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the leeks and garlic for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the peppers and fennel and cook for 2 minutes more.
  4. Add the tomatoes, stock, saffron water, reserved mussel liquid and the remaining wine. Season well and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the rice, stir it into the mixture, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until it is just tender.
  5. Carefully stir in the white fish and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the prawns and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the scallop corals and mussels and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until all the fish is tender. If the soup seems dry, add a little extra white wine or stock, or a little of both. Spoon into warmed soup dishes, top with the mussels in their shells and sprinkle with the dill. Serve with fresh crusty bread, if you like.
  6. COOK'S TIP
    To make your own fish stock, place about 450 g / 1 lb white fish trimmings - bones, heads, but not gills - in a large pan. Add a chopped onion, carrot, bay leaf, fresh parsley spring, 6 peppercorns, and a 5 cm / 2 in piece of pared lemon rind. Pour in 1.2 litres / 2 pints / 5 cups water, bring to the boil and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Strain through muslin (cheesecloth).
Provencal Fish Soup