This soup tastes better if you use 2-3 different kinds of fish. Prawns or mussels are a great addition too. In France, this dish is usually served with oven baked croutons topped with spicy garlic paste and to me this is what makes it special.
125ml extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 small leeks, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 bay leaves
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, to taste
big pinch (20-30) saffron threads
2 x 400g cans tomatoes in juice, chopped, or 800g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp honey
2 litres fish stock
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
salt and ground black pepper
1kg boneless fillets of firm fish
12-16 mussels and/or 8-16 large raw prawns (optional)
Heat the oil in a large pot and sweat the onion, fennel and leeks for about 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are clear and softened. Do not allow them to brown.
Add tomato paste and sizzle for a couple of minutes. Add bay leaves, garlic and whole chillies. Mix in vermouth, saffron, tomatoes and honey and cook for 20 minutes over a low heat.
Add the fish stock and potatoes and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are nearly cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cut fish into 4cm chunks. Five minutes before serving, add fish and mussels, if using, and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Then add prawns, if using, and simmer for another 2-3 minutes until the seafood is cooked and the mussels open. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
Lift out and discard bay leaves and chillies. Divide soup between heated soup bowls.