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Pan-fried grey bream fillet on pistou

21 June 2013
Pan-fried grey bream fillet on pistou

Recipe taken from Mange Tout: Bistro Cooking with a Modern Twist by Bruno Loubet

Pistou is a Provençal vegetable soup, finished with a basil purée (also called a pistou, confusingly). One of my wife's aunts is originally from Marseille and, aside from her fun and flamboyant personality, her cooking was another big charm.

In this dish, I make the pistou soup with less liquid than usual 
so that it is quite thick, and with 
the addition of mussels, it makes a great accompaniment to the bream. I suggest you serve it with a dollop of Rouille sauce as you would for a bouillabaisse and you will get the perfect hybrid ProvenÁ§al dish.

Ingredients (Serves six)
80g fresh borlotti beans or 
40g dried borlotti
1 bay leaf
1kg mussels
50ml white wine
6 grey bream fillets, about 150g each, with skin
25ml olive oil
6 rosemary sprigs
2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
½ tsp marjoram leaves
Salt and black pepper

Pistou 50g bunch of basil
1 garlic clove
50ml olive oil
2 slices of white bread, crusts removed

Soup 25ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
200g leeks, diced
150g carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
150g potatoes, diced
150g turnips, diced
150g courgettes, diced
100g green beans, cut into 1cm pieces
100g shelled broad beans


Method Soak the mussels in plenty of cold water for 30 minutes. Scrub them clean, then remove the beards 
(the fibrous clumps attached to the mussels). Discard any that are cracked, broken or remain open when tapped. Drain the mussels in a colander and rinse well.

Heat the white wine in a large pan over a high heat until simmering, add the mussels and cover with a lid. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened (discard any that haven't), then remove them from their shells and pass the juice through a fine sieve over a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. For the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the garlic and stir, then add the leeks, carrots, onion, potatoes, turnips and fresh borlotti, if using. Season very lightly and sweat, stirring often, for 5 minutes, then add the cooked borlotti, if using, and pour in enough water just to cover. Bring to the boil, skim the surface and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Cover with a lid. Return to the boil, then add the courgettes, green beans and broad beans. Boil gently for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and add the mussels and the strained cooking juices.

Meanwhile, make the pistou sauce. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Cook the fish. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over a high heat in a large frying pan until very hot, then add the bream, skin-side down. Place a rosemary sprig on top of each piece of fish and lower the heat to medium. After 2 minutes check the skin, it should be golden brown. If so, remove the fish from the pan using a palette knife or fish slice and place on the lined baking tray, skin-side up.

Place the fish in the oven to finish the cooking - it will only take 2-3 minutes so watch it carefully, then remove from the oven. Reheat the soup gently, then add the pistou, tomatoes and marjoram to it and stir well.

To serve, ladle the vegetables and soup liquid into large soup bowls and place a fish fillet on top of each serving. Serve immediately.

Recommended wine Usually a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley would go well with fish and spring vegetables. However, something a little more unusual, which works incredibly well with both the flavour and texture of grey bream, is the 2011 Filipa Pato Ensaios Branco - my favourite wine this summer. 
Filipa Pato is a winemaker from Portugal's Bairrada region, who handcrafts the wine beautifully with Bical and Arinto grapes. It has purity, subtle aromatics, and the palate is textured, with lovely balance and zesty notes.

Michael Benyan is co-owner of The Zetter Group, which includes Zetter Hotel, Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Zetter Townhouse & Grain Store

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