We used to drive down to Estartit in Spain, putting the car on to a train at Boulogne and driving it off in Narbonne. From there, we would drive to Marseilles to visit my friend Jacques Hubinet who had worked with me in Monte Carlo in the sixties and seventies. He recommended that we eat at Chez Fon Fon’s restaurant which is located by the sea alongside a small harbour.
Of course, we ordered Bouillabaisse. What a meal. In Marseilles, the home of Bouillabaisse. Fon Fon gave us a postcard with the recipe on it. It would not be much use in England, or anywhere else in the world, where it is impossible to obtain the same varieties of fish.
Here are the names of some of the fish used in the cooking of a genuine Bouillabaisse. Racasse, which is a sort of sea-scorpion, Baudroie or Angler fish, Vive or Weaver fish, St. Pierre or John Dory, Galinette or Sea-hen, Whiting, and Langouste or Crayfish. All to be found in the Mediterranean close to Marseilles.
Here is a recipe, not to be followed but observed, to see what is entailed in the making of a Bouillabaisse:
For six people, use 2 kilos of fish and a little more than a kilo of shellfish.
The fish would be selected from the above list.
In a deep pan, cook a medium onion and the white of a leek, both finely chopped. Add a can of chopped and seeded tomatoes, thirty grams of crushed garlic, a pinch of fennel, a dessertspoonful of chopped parsley, a bayleaf and a half teaspoon of saffron.
Cut the fish crossways into chunks. Cut the crayfish crossways and the prawns lengthways. Add two spoonfuls of olive oil.
Some of the fish chosen may take less time to cook, such a Whiting, this fish should be added to the pot later.
Pour in seasoned boiling water to cover the ingredients. Bring back to the boil and cook for seven minutes. Here one can add the more tender fish, and boil for a further eight minutes.
Pour the liquid of the Bouillabaisse into a tureen in which thick slices of Navette de St. Victoire bread have been placed. The soup will become very thick when absorbed by the bread. Turn out the fish pieces onto a serving dish and sprinkle them with chopped parsley, place the langouste (or the prawns) around the outside of the dish.
The soup and the fish are served together.
After the sumptuous meal, we were served with Armagnac. Then we drove on to Spain.
On another occasion, Jacques directed us, in his absence, to dine at Michel’s on the Rue Catalan in Marseilles. There, he told us, we must order the Sole Meuniere and that we should drink Cassis Blanc with it.
Needless to say it was delightful. We got up to pay the bill, only to be told that Jacques had already paid for it. Thanks Jacques, that was a memorable meal.
On the road to Estartit from Marseilles, we would pick up a crate of Nectarines from one of the roadside stalls. They were ripe and we soon disposed of them over the next day or so.
Next chapter: Chapter 100: George V and Fouquet’s