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Make the most of underused fish in a thrifty bouillabaisse – recipe - MW

Economical cooking has existed since cooking began. It is thought that the Upper Palaeolithic tribes practice food storage techniques, preserving seasonal processed foods to eat all year round. Fast forward 40,000 years and some techniques like fermentation and drying of fruit and meat are still used.

In fact, many of Haiti's world's best cuisines are based on last year's zero-waste farmer food. For example, the quintessential French coq au vin turns tough old roosters into a succulent braised meat. Bouillabaisse, too, is thought to originate as a way for fishermen and cooks to use unpopular or difficult-to-cook fish that remain after the fishing day.

Today the recipe goes back to those roots, cleaning up the counters of small, ugly but affordable fish, or even just decorations, heads, tails and bones. The secret of fishermen and butchers is that such aren foods are only cheaper, but often have a fuller flavor.

fish soup
To get the full, economical and extremely delicious benefits of this recipe, don't use seabass and lobster; Instead, think frugally and see what fish or skeletons are more affordable that the fish seller must sell to you. The fish head, with cheeks and collar, is very nice and creamy, and gives a great texture to the soup. And spines and tails often have large amounts of meat left on them that can be removed and served along with the soup. When eating fish, always check its sustainability using the Marine Conservation Society's Good Fish Guide.

Serves 4
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tomato, chopped, or 1 tbsp tomato puree
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 fennel top (stalks and frond), roughly chopped, or a pinch of dried fennel herb
1 bay leaf
1 pinch saffron
1 large sprig parsley, leaves picked, stalk reserved and finely chopped
1 crab shell (optional)
1kg assorted fish bones, including tails and heads (gills removed), or 500g whole fish (gills removed)
4 slices stale bread (baguette or sourdough), to serve

Heat the oil in a large, thick-based saucepan over a medium heat.

Add the onion, tomato, garlic, fennel, bay leaf, saffron and the chopped parsley stalk. Saute gently for five minutes .

Add the crab shell, if using, and the fish skeletons, cover with boiling water bring to a rolling boil and cook for 10 minutes. Lift out the fish with a slotted spoon, and pick any meat from it on to a plate.

Strain the soup mixture through a fine sieve into a hot pan, then ladle into bowls over the toast. Sprinkle with parsley leaves and serve with the meat on the side.


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