At a recent 'Rabbit Hill Foodie Workshop' we created this traditional dish that originates in Provence in the town of Marseilles. I think it would be safe to say that there are hundreds of varieties; some with just fish, many with shellfish ... and I am even aware of one with chicken.  The recipes go from very simple to quite complex, but one must remember that this dish was created as a way for fisherman to make a basic stew from the 'undesirable' fish and seafood that was rustic and delicious and not a refined and elegant dish.

Part 1 - Fish Stock


  • 1-2 medium sized whole fish (any sea type but not oily fish like salmon or tuna)

  • 4-6 cups water

  • 2 carrots, celery stalks with leaves, 1 onion ; all in large pieces

  • Sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf or a bouquet garni

  • 2 cubes veggie bouillon (optional but helps with flavor)


Rinse and clean fish as needed and place in a stock pot with vegetables covered with cold water.  Add herbs or a bouquet-garni and a bit of salt and cook the fish for an hour or two until it breaks down. You will ultimately only need a few cups of broth. Set aside to cool and then strain or filter so that you just have the broth.

Part 2 - The Base


In a large pot combine 2-3 tbs of olive oil with the following finely chopped:

  • 3 shallots

  • 2 carrots

  • 1/2 fennel bulb

  • 1 yellow or red pepper

  • 2 medium cloves crushed garlic

+ A peel (just a thin curl or two) from an organic orange.
+ 4-5 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped or 3 cans nice quality diced tomatoes.


Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes and then add the tomatoes, the orange peel and then once the sauce is bubbly, add the fish stock.  Cook and reduce this on low for two hours.

This is a good stopping point if you want to break this dish into two prep days.

Part 3 - Bringing it all together


When you continue, you just heat the sauce to near boiling and add:

  • mussels, clams, shrimp... I always plan about 4 per person of each.

  • pieces of white fish (chunks rather than thin fillets) sea bass or cod are perfect.


Note: if you have pre-cooked prawns or shrimp add them last just to warm.

Add the shellfish first to the hot broth and veggies and then once the shells are open, you can add the fish which you will cook until the pieces become flaky.  Don't forget to remove the orange peel before serving, which is the mystery ingredient that along with the fennel make the cooking broth so fragrant.

Serve with crusty bread and a traditional Rouille, a spicy mayonnaise which is spread on thick slices of country bread and floated on the bouillabaisse when served and is made with an egg yolk, two cloves of garlic, a cup of olive oil, and ten pistils of saffron, and is seasoned with salt and Cayenne pepper.


About the Author

Writer, photographer & foodie living on a farm in Normandy called Rabbit Hill, I also run a French lifestyle online pop-up shop and offer French foodie workshops.

Learn to make dishes like this at Rabbit Hill Workshops

Our workshops bring you the best food that France has to offer, through visits to local markets and French cooking lessons in beautiful Normandy.


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