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This all started with a successful day my partner had fishing for tailor.  Tailor are listed as a sustainable choice, and they’re one of my very favourite fish – high in Omega 3, firm fleshed and tasty without being too strong.

The fillets fed ten people for dinner, and the heads and frames went into the pressure cooker on the slow combustion stove overnight.  In the morning I strained the result through a colander and was left with a big pot of beautifully rich stock.

There is something very satisfying about using the whole of an animal that is killed for food, and even more so when it leads to this.  The bouillabaisse fed another dinner party of eleven people, so those fish made a total of over 20 meals. I felt like a very good predator!

Tailor is an oily fish, so it makes a better stock for a rich, Mediterranean soup than the white fish I used for the Lao Style Fragrant Fish Soup a little while ago.

The Recipe:

Serves 10 as a dinner party.

The Stock:

You need a good strongly flavoured fish stock for this recipe.  Oily fish like tailor or mullet are perfect.  I used the heads and frames (after the fillets had been removed) from 6 large tailor.  I just put them in my large pressure cooker, covered with water, and pressure cooked over a very low flame for an hour.  Then I strained the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to get the last of the juice, and leaving the the heads and bones for the compost. I ended up with 2½ litres of good strong stock.  This can be frozen.

The Soup Base

In a little olive oil in a large pot, saute:

(All finely diced, and adding them in this order)

  • 2 onions
  • 2 leeks
  • 2-3 large sticks of celery
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds

Add the fish stock and 2 cups or so of tomato passata.

Add in

  • 5 or 6 of bay leaves
  • A couple of sprigs of parsley (whole)
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme (whole)
  • the peel of an orange (whole or in strips)
  • the juice of an orange
  • a pinch of saffron strands

Simmer for half an hour or so. Fish out the herbs and the orange rind.


Ten minutes before serving time, bring the soup up to the boil and add about 2 kg of mixed fish and shellfish in bite sized pieces.  Traditionally bouillabaisse has prawns and clams, but it works just as well and is much more ethical and sustainable to use Moreton Bay bugs, calamari, blue swimmer crabs and/or mussels.  I like to use nearly all fish, with just a  little  shellfish to create variety.

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Place a slice of a good, crusty sourdough bread in each bowl and ladle the soup over it.  Sprinkle with parsley.  If you include crab, provide finger bowls and napkins, so people can use fingers to get at the meat.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Anna Johnston August 20, 2010, 11:10 am

    I’m with you when managing to use the whole of an animal, especially on those incredibly rare occasions when I have something (or someone close has something) do to with pillaging & plundering, huntering & gatherings 🙂
    Really interesting stock making method you created too, very different from traditional stocks but would be super tasty I bet!

  • Linda August 20, 2010, 11:28 am

    My cooking is often based around the “necessity is the mother of invention” principle! I just thought the frames looked too good to waste.

  • Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial August 22, 2010, 6:17 am

    20 meals from one catch is a great achievement! Particularly when the “leftover bits” results in such an amazing soup!

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