For keen travellers and holidaymakers things are a little difficult at the moment. With us all staying safe at home daydreaming about our next holiday it can be easy to get downhearted. Thankfully though, there is one aspect of your favourite getaway that you can easily incorporate into your lockdown routine. If you’re like me and food is one of your favourite reasons to visit another country, then creating an authentic recipe from a world-class destination is a great way to bring a little foreign culture to your home. It’s a fantastic way to make use of spare time and whet your appetite for when you finally do get back on the move.
One of my favourite cities is also home to one of the finest (and most famous) dishes in all the world. Marseille’s Bouillabaisse is packed with flavour and cooking it will engage and challenge your culinary skills.
The City of Marseille
Sophistication and elegance are two choice words to describe this charming port city. One of the jewels in France’s crown, it has culture galore and is a top destination in the world for foodies. The port city’s reputation for edginess on the culinary stage remains and this is one of the main reasons so many people are putting it at the top of their post-lockdown wish lists.
People come to Marseille for football, for nightlife, for food and for a culture that is uniquely Mediterranean. For over a millennium it has been the European city with the most character and attitude, and its modern-day incarnation is no different. Only now there are classy hotels to stay in and and cutting edge restaurants to help you while away the hours after exploring the energetic streets.
Only a city as distinctive as this one could have produced a dish like the Bouillabaisse; a dish that epitomises all that is true to this place.
Top Tip: a hotel by the sea provides a calm place to start and finish a day that will be more than a little exhilarating.
Bouillabaisse: More Than Seafood Soup
I think it’s difficult to say what is more famous, Marseille or Bouillabaisse. But perhaps it’s because they go hand in hand that there is little to separate their respective reputations. The dish is a rich fish stew, traditionally served with spicy mayo and hearty crusty bread. It makes use of the city’s port location and has come to represent the whole of the region of Provence.
In fact, the dish is so revered that a group of chefs felt the need to standardise it to protect its authenticity. You won’t find anything but the real thing when you visit the region.
Fish Stew: A History
With many years of history, its origins (like all great living legends) tends to be a bit mysterious. It was probably a result of its port location and the city’s inhabitants finding a way to use up produce that was cheap and cheerful at the time. Fortune favours the brave, in this case, and today ‘the soup of gold’, as it is sometimes known is being served throughout Marseille in budget and high-class restaurants alike.
One thing that has remained constant throughout the dish’s history is the freshness of the seafood that gets used. With the ocean on the doorstep the residents and chefs of this port have always had a treasure trove of ingredients to use. For those of us who rely only on the supermarket for our ingredients, however, you can still replicate the taste. There are variations on the ingredients to some extent, and as long as you’re dedicated to bringing out the distinctive flavour, you’ll find a dish that you return to again and again.
There are a few different ways to make Bouillabaisse, but this is a good way to get started and to get a rich, delicious meal every time.
- Make a bundle of herbs with thyme, bay leaves, orange peel, parsley stalks and chilli (tie it together with string).
- In a large dish, heat onion, sliced leek and fennel for about ten to fifteen minutes. Then add garlic and cook for another few minutes.
- Add your herb bundle, some star anise, two tablespoons of Pernod, a tablespoon of tomato puree, four tomatoes (finely chopped) and a small amount of saffron.
- Simmer all this together for a couple of minutes and then add 1 and a half litres of fish stock. Add 100g of potato and then simmer until you have a thin soup (should be about half an hour).
- Remove the potato and then add about a kilogram of mixed fish – some good ones to use are John Dory, red or grey mullet, gurnard and monkfish. Let these poach in your soup. Add 300g of mussels and cook until they open up.
- Serve with crusty bread and a side of spicy garlicky mayonnaise known as rouille.
A Getaway With Your Taste Buds
This Bouillabaisse is a great way to experience the authentic flavours of Marseille, and it is sure to make you keen to visit as soon as we can get back on the planes and trains. There are a number of ways you can experiment with the dish too, so why not get creative and see what you can come up with?
How to Get There
It only takes about two hours to fly to Marseille from the UK, and once you arrive it couldn’t be easier to get to your destination.
Getting from the airport to Marseille takes only half an hour, and I would recommend Shuttle Direct’s fantastic airport pick-up service. They have professionally trained drivers who are knowledgeable and reliable. I’ve used them dozens of times and they have never let me down.
- UK to MRS Flight Time: 2 hours
- MRS to Marseille Distance: 28 kilometres
- Shuttle Direct Transfer Time: 33 minutes
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is a high quality, professional transfer service, offering pick up and drop off services at a huge number of destinations worldwide. Our trained staff are happy to help and our service can accommodate your needs, no matter where you’re starting or finishing your journey.