Soupe de Poisson

To say I’ve had a dodgy start of the week would be an understatement. As sous-chef this week I’ve already made some major boo boos, my Crudités sucked, and I looked totally uncool while dealing with the fish today.

Crudités - not so exciting

Dealing with a whole bunch of vegetables and herbs is not too complicated. So while arranging the kitchen was easy on Monday, motivating myself to produce a stellar raw-veggie plate was very difficult. But how could I have made such a mess of uncooked vegetables?? My carrots weren’t julienned enough, my cucumbers were salted for too long, the cabbage and celery had a bit too much vinegar and mayo respectively, tomatoes under-dressed. Did I get anything right on the day? Oh yes, at least I remembered to sign-in and get the copper pots in (which, of course, we didn’t even need).

Soupe de Poisson was catastrophic. We were each given a tray of rouget (red mullet), rascasse (red snapper), congre (eel), an unidentifiable freaky grey fish with a wierdly extended belly, along with bowls of live crabs and random fish carcasses. “Allez! Ébarber-Écailler-Dégorger-Vider!” commands the chef and we’re expected to prep all the fish in fifteen minutes. It took ninety minutes.

The blood and guts…okay, so it’s not a pretty sight and I’m sure there is a more efficient way than using my bare hands to pull them out because while the smaller fish co-operated, the biggies put up a fight. It was when I cut open the wierdly extended belly of the unidentifiable grey fish that I had to physically make a real effort to not hurl while the grey sludgy muck tumbled out. The chef says they were the eggs and apparently they taste amazing fried in duck fat. I’ll pass. A classmate’s fish’s gut spilled out a half digested fish head. Further hurling induced.


The crabs were a nightmare. I struggled to pull them out of the box as they were full of life and trying to get away from my tongs. After getting done with my embarassing theatrical hysterics I picked up a crab that was holding on to its crabby pal in a tight embrace, the Jack-and-Rose kind in Titanic, and as I couldn’t really get them off of one another I had the insane idea of killing them together. These crabs were small, smaller than my fist (and I have small fists). It’s hard enough to aim with my cleaver, and with them scampering around I was looking a bit like a mad psycho axe killer while making shreaky sounds. I whacked down the cleaver but missed the middle completely and only got their right pincers. They were now scampering away with their remaining pincers and I brought down the cleaver on them again, missing the second time. Fifth time on, I finally got them but they were still moving. It was one of those harrowing moments I really hope I can get over soon. Unfortunately, the fishy stench that seems to have permeated my core is an undying reminder of the horrors in the Garde Manger.

Soupe de Poisson - Looks nice, and tastes not so

The worst thing about the whole day was that I hate Soupe de Poisson. Blending all the bones, heads and eyes together into the soup and pressing it through the chinois was a vile sight and the resulting liquid was runny and overtly fishy. I will not be serving this to people I care about.

Soupe de Poisson
1 whole red mullet
1 whole red snapper
Eel fillets
5-8 mini crabs
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 leek, green part only, sliced
2 onions, finely chopped
0.5 fennel bulb, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed, and half a garlic head, cut across the cross-section
1 celery branch, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
0.5 cup tomato puree
0.25 cup Pernod
1 cup white wine
2 star anise
Pinch of piment
Pinch of Spigol
Bouquet Garni
Olive oil

1. Clean the fish (trim, descale, rinse, de-gut and de-gill). Chop into bits. Keep heads whole.
2. Heat olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot upto 3mm). Sear the fish for 4 mins. Set aside and reserve.
3. Sear the crabs for 2 minutes until a little red. Set aside and reserve with the fish.
4. Cook the carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, fennel and celery together for 4 minutes. Add in fish and crabs and mix well.
5. Add in Pernod and white wine. Cook for a few minutes, mixing well.
6. Drop in the tomatoes, puree, star anise, bouquet garni, salt, piment, spigol, and cover the fish with water 3-4cm above the fish.
7. Cook for an hour and a half, skimming the top as frequently as possible.
8. Remove the bouquet garni, star anise, garlic head and crab shells. Blend soup. Press it through a strainer and bring to the boil again. Skim the top.
9. Serve warm with rouille, croutons and gruyere cheese.

3 Responses to “Soupe de Poisson”
  1. Matt says:

    Oh Reshmi – I am not sure if I could have done that. I can’t gut a fish (although I’ve not tried) and as for crap cleaving…

    I wouldn’t worry too much though. Who likes raw veg and fish heads anyway? Not me, that’s for sure. Stick to the onion soup and all your tasty inventions when I come round.


  2. Matt says:

    Ahem, crab cleaving, not crap.

  3. Shmii says:

    muahahaha, crap cleaving!

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