This is a firm favourite at the restaurant. Ask your stallholder or fishmonger for prawn heads or crab shells as well as fish pie mix - it will be a good price. The old Scots name for this crab soup is Partan Bree, or the French would call it a bisque.
1 kg prawn and/or crab shells
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly cut
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
250g of mixed fish, like hake, pollock or salmon tails, cut into inch cubes
A large handful of mussels
100mls double cream
4 tablespoons of good mayonnaise
30mls of Pernod or Ricard
1 tbspn tomato purée
A pinch of saffron
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tspn peppercorns
1 tbspn rapeseed oil, plus extra for the mayonnaise mix
Salt and pepper
4 slices of good bread for toasting
In a hot oven, roast the shells for about half an hour on a roasting tray, until you can smell them.
Meanwhile, on the hob, heat the rapeseed oil a large pot and fry the carrot, onion, celery, half the fennel, peppercorns and bay leaf until golden. Then add the tomato purée and keep frying to cook out the purée. Add the roasted shells and cover with water. Simmer on the hob, stirring occasionally, and making sure there’s always enough water. After a couple of hours, push the stock through a fine sieve ensuring no shell remains.
Next, place a clean pot on the hob, add the Pernod or Ricard and reduce by half. Now add the stock, and reduce by half again until strong and rich. Incorporate the cream and a pinch of saffron to the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce further for a few minutes until it looks creamy. Then add in the fish and the mussels in their shells and cook on a gentle heat (do not boil now as the fish will break up and go to mush).
Whilst your bread is toasting, make a rouille by mixing together the garlic, mayonnaise, saffron and a squirt of rapeseed oil. If you have it a spoonful of leftover mash or bread crumbs, you can also add this to the mix.
Taste the soup and season to your taste. Serve in warmed bowls with dollops of rouillle and fennel on top (if you like that aniseedy flavour), and toasted bread on the side.