Friday, 27 November 2009

Poor Man's Bouillabaisse

A couple of months back I spent a weekend in Whitstable, Kent, with a few friends. The place had remarkable seafood; even the Fish Bar (ie, the Fish & Chip shop) had a few unusual (and unusually fresh!) entries, like Rock. Aside from this, and amidst the town's quaint high street, the pebble beaches and the sight of kite surfers with a wind farm in the background, I found a rather interesting Victorian book that is now reproduced and published by a company based there.

A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes was written by Charles Elme Francatelli, maitre'd to Queen Victoria, and as its title suggests, targetted those who were not so well off. Practically Edible notes that the book was sponsored by Brown and Polson, in return for product placement in recipes and a 2-page advertisement at the back of the book.

While many of the recipes would not be particularly acceptable today, such as sheep-head broth and a pudding made of small birds, there was one which I feel would fit in both with my visit to a seaside town and the overarching theme of this blog. Recipe no. 125 of the book features a very simple Bouillabaisse which takes about half an hour to cook. The recipe itself can be found on Google Books, starting at the bottom of the page (Those with ebook readers can download the entire thing from Project Gutenberg).

For today's blog post, I'll be using the frozen white fish fillets from Sainsbury's. £1.94 gives you a packet of 4 fish fillets of varying sizes, typically 1-2 servings per fillet depending on what else you have to go along with it. The fish is Alaska pollock, a relative of the cod, and used in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish and other similar items in the fast food industry.


To drive costs down even further I have substituted fresh tomatoes for a can. I'll be serving for one, ie, myself. Some liberty will also be applied with regards to the order of ingredients added to the saucepan.
Start by defrosting the fish with warm water. Save the water for the soup later.

Chop some onions and garlic and brown.

Chop up your defrosted fish fillet, and then add it to brown.

Add vinegar, some herb mix and pepper.


Add the canned tomatoes to a saucepan. Add a can of the defrosting water and bring to the boil for 15 minutes.


Francatelli recommends serving this with toasted bread, as proper bouillabaisse is done. Handily, I've managed to pick up a packet of Basics white rolls.


Who would have thought vinegar could be used to liven up a tomato soup? This would be something worth remembering. The fish turned out to be okay; though it does tend to flake up really quickly, its taste is really mild, so much so that you could probably feed it to those who don't really like the taste of fish. Then again, this is the fish that goes into one of the most widely accepted fish burgers in the world. Also, because the rolls taste like any other buns that I have come across, and since you get 12 of them for 35p, I feel they represent excellent value for money. But the best part of it is that everything came together as a very pleasant meal despite each ingredient having humble beginnings.

Those of you doing costings should note that I used two rolls, one fillet and one can of tomatoes, so that works out to 6 + 50 + 35p = 91p. To that I've added an onion, garlic, vinegar, herb mix and pepper; all that should be covered by rounding up to £1. I actually managed to have enough for another meal, so take that into account as well.


















DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Frozen White Fish Fillets£1.944 fillets, 520gN/AN/A - No exact equivalent
White Rolls£0.3512 buns+£0.30 for 6
Not known

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