Marseille feels like such a romantic place. The beauty, the personality, the grittiness of the city all make you feel like this is a place you could fall in love with. To be honest, it crept up on me. It wasn’t my favourite city when we got there, but the more I think back about it, the more I realize what depth the city has. There’s the Vieux Port (Old Port) with a London-Eye type ferris wheel, restaurant daily specials are determined by whatever the catch of the day is, and if you need directions, you either go ‘to the left’ or ‘to the right’ of the Port. The city’s Notre Dame Church overlooks the town, quietly and peacefully illuminated at night so wherever you are, you can always look up and see that beacon. It comforts you somehow. There are the Calanques that transport you to another world, a simple cross erected along the coast, meant to protect the fishermen that sail out every morning and return them safely to land. From land, you can just make out the Chateau d’If, a real prison that features in the fictional novel, the Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexander Dumas. How can you not fall in love with the world?
By far the best part of Marseille is the ocean and what lies in it. I had never head of the Calanques until the day we went to the ticket booth and bought the tickets, but seeing them was the best surprise destination of the trip – Being on the boat, navigating through narrow turquoise channels, seeing these formations rise out of the water looking like they came from Middle Earth or some Game of Thrones type land – I felt like a true adventurer, that anything was possible. My heart felt like it was floating. I half expected to see Jon Snow mingling with the sunbathers that dotted the various Calanques.
Because Marseille restaurants have the “we close at 10 and reopen at 12” habit, we spent the morning drinking coffee and beer and waiting for lunch. We even stumbled upon the Galeries Lafayette (a fantastic supermarket), where I had a nervous breakdown over the amount of vinegar, truffle oils, mustard (moutarde!) and finishing salts. I also fell in love with a French Adrien Brody lookalike who had better hair and a scarf that made me want to love him for infinity (get it?). I stepped up to peer between the line of people to attempt to decipher the French menu and he was ordering, but stopped to look at me charmingly and let me order ahead oh him. He also didn’t laugh when I ordered my food in slow and stilted French. Points to you, you handsome thing.
I left Marseille for one of the last recipes because: Bouillabaisse. Yes, I want to try it but I’m not good at cooking fish and if something is even slightly fishy it turns me off, so it’s very thin line to walk. After my disaster in Nice (the seafood Fruits la Mer), I was worried that I’d ruin the bouillabaisse. Plus it calls for fennel, the licorice tasting seed that I’m not a fan of. Plus I don’t have a saffron fund (that is one expensive spice!). So I really didn’t want to put that much effort into doing something there was a good chance I’d dislike. But… “let’s challenge myself” and all that. Sometimes present me gets so mad at past me. And past me never thinks about future me’s feelings. Sigh. Those crazy b*tches need to work it out.
I struck a compromise among the ‘me-s’ and decided to try Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse with some amount of changes. Her full recipe is available here if you want to be better than me. Lol.
My lazy recipe is below:
For the Fish Soup Base:
1 3/4 cups minced onion
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic (mashed)
1 pound tomatoes (roughly chopped)
10 cups Water
6 fresh sprigs Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried Basil
1/8 teaspoon fennel
1 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 tbsp Salt
For the Bouillabaisse:
1 package Seafood Mix (Shrimp, Squid, Scallops, etc)
1/3 cup fresh Parsley (roughly chopped)
For the Rouille:
1/3 cup chopped Red Bell Pepper (simmered for several minutes in salted water and drained)
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 medium Potato (pierced a few times with a fork and cooked in the soup)
4 cloves minced Garlic
1 tsp dried Basil
5 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp hot Soup
Warm olive oil in a stockpot and add onions. Stir to coat. On medium heat, cook onions for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic & tomatoes and let cook for another 3 minutes. Add water, spices & herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep a steady simmer and let cook for between 30-40 minutes. Remember to add the potato about halfway through. Remove potato and strain broth. Make sure to press the juices out of the solids.
While the Bouillabaisse is simmering, prep the ingredients for the rouille. Cook the red pepper in salted water for 5- 7 minutes, then drain. Add the ingredients to a food processor and when the broth is done, add the potato and soup to processor. Blend thoroughly.
Before you’re ready to eat, bring the broth to a boil and add the seafood mix to the broth. Let cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Spoon into bowls and serve immediately with rouille.
Result: Fantastic frickin’ broth and rouille. Forget the seafood, throw veggies and the rouille in it and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal. If you really love your seafood then it’s still a good meal, just don’t overcook the seafood in the broth. Also, although I didn’t add fish, I think that a fillet would have flaked and melted into the soup nicely.