Boom for bouillabaisse

This month, Jérôme is mainly thinking about the onset of summer, and the joy of bouillabaisse

As I write, the sun streaming through the window but sleet forecast later, the sense of anticipation of the season to come is almost unbearable.

Summer is every chef’s favourite time for the wonderful produce the season brings, and the true taste of summer is in the French classic, bouillabaisse. It is a staple of our summer menu, though creating it here in England presents its own challenges, not least because it is so difficult to source the most important ingredient, the poisson de roche.

This little fish, caught off the south of France, is central to its distinctive flavour, but I tweak my recipe to the produce available here in Northumberland, achieving the intensity of flavour necessary by roasting red mullet and sea bass bones at the heart of a sauce which stars fennel, fennel seed, tomato, olive oil, and of course saffron.

You may tweak this dish by adding saffron potatoes, some mussels perhaps, and it can be a little different each time depending on what is available, but always the base sauce must be those roast bones; the taste of the sea.

And remember, the liver of red mullet, with its creamy texture similar to chicken liver, is a delicacy and is usually left intact when the fish is gutted. Mix this liver with soft butter and use it to finish your sauce. There is no flavour like it!

It is so important that we all start working with different species of fish if we are to preserve stocks and allow species to grow to maturity. One of the most noticeable changes recently is increasing difficulty in sourcing chunky fish.

Last year we had some beautiful meagre (same family as stone bass and sea bass). It is very meaty and we used to get 3-4kg ones, but now they are just 1-2kg, which means these fish are not given time to grow to maturity.

So, it is extremely difficult to get chunky fish. I can get wonderful cod and salmon, of course, there is monkfish too, but things are changing, and this is cause for concern.

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