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Basque fish stew, by Ollie Couillard

Basque fish stew, by Ollie Couillard

(Serves four)

For the soup base (serves 10-20)

2 carrots
2 onions
1 stick celery
4 heads garlic
4 bay leaves
2 leeks
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs tarragon
3 sprigs rosemary
2tbs star anise
2tbs coriander seeds
2tbs fennel seeds
1/2 tin tomato paste
1/2 bottle Pernod
1/2 bottle Noilly Prat
1/2 bottle dry white wine
5kg white fish bones
10 litres water
1 tin peeled tomatoes
Lemon juice
Saffron, to taste
Splash of brandy, to taste

For the fish stew
175g red mullet
175g monkfish
175g sea bream
175g mussels
Sea salt
3 piments d’Espelettes
16 new potatoes
1 pinch saffron
1 bulb fennel, sliced
Olive oil
10 piquillo peppers
Aïoli, to serve

To make the soup, fry off vegetables and herbs in olive oil, add tomato paste and cook out for five minutes. Add wines and reduce. Add fish bones, peeled tomatoes and water, bring to a boil and simmer for about three hours.

Put soup in a liquidiser and then pour it back into a pan on a low heat to reduce until the flavour has intensified. Finish with lemon juice, saffron, basil and brandy. Take the liquid off the heat, cover it with clingfilm and let the soup infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid (about five litres) through a fine sieve and reserve to poach fish in.

To make the fish stew, season fish with salt and piments d’Espelette. Boil new potatoes in water coloured with saffron. Braise fennel in a little olive oil. Poach fish and mussels in the fish soup. Add the cooked new potatoes, braised, sliced fennel and piquillo peppers. Serve fish with a generous ladle of fish soup and aïoli on the side.

Wine match 2006 Vignerons du Pays Basque Irouléguy Xuri d’Ansa: “Dry, crisp and flowery and the perfect choice to complement the fish, as it is round and fruity. A typical example from the Basque, this is a good alternative to a Loire Valley wine.” (£10 glass, £20 carafe, £29 bottle)

By Oliie Couillard

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