Fish tales

Culinary Conversations
with Peter Blakeway
Food writer, caterer and private chef

Recently, I’ve been doing cook schools at fishing clubs around the country. The plan was to give some fresh ideas on seafood. So armed with some snapper, Kingfish and scallops I walked into rooms full of people who had caught, cooked and eaten these species countless times. A bit daunting; after all no one knows fish like a fisherman, right?

Well it’s true, we all live in the Bay with some of the best seafood on our doorstep; and all we need to do is experiment and enjoy the wonderful healthy variety the ocean has to offer. The key word here being ‘healthy’, so we leave the fat fryer in the pantry and explore the simple flavours without all those added fats. The other thing is to try to use the whole fish to extract the maximum flavor. To this end this dish starts with the use of the bones to make a fish stock – don’t be daunted it really is quick and the flavour you’ll get is worth it. Then just follow the recipe for the bouillabaisse and enjoy.

For the purist from the South of France this dish needs very specific fish from the Mediterranean, which let’s face it is not feasible when we have such amazing seafood right here. So we follow the basic principles and substitute our local favourites and let’s call it a Pilot Bay bouillabaisse – in honour of where this fish was cooked and eaten.

The best bit for me was after I’d finished and everyone was tasting the fruits of our labours, there was a buzz of conversation around the room. Who’d have thought the fish they know so well could still surprise them with crisp, clear, healthy flavour.

Pilot Bay bouillabaisse

Serves 6


3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion and 1 red chilli, chopped

1 fennel bulb and 1 leek, trimmed and sliced

10 saffron threads

1 Tbsp boiling water

400g can peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 litres fish stock (see below)

500g snapper fillets, skin on, cubed

12 raw green lip mussels, cleaned and cut into 6.

12 medium raw prawns, peeled, tails intact

8 scallops in the half shell

2 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley


Heat the oil and add onion, fennel, leek and chilli and cook for six minutes until soft and golden. Meanwhile, place the saffron threads in a small bowl and pour over the boiling water. Add the tomatoes, saffron, and water, and stock to the pan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the snapper, mussels, prawn and scallops to the broth and simmer for two minutes. Stir through the parsley and serve in bowls with croutons.

Fish stock

2kg soaked and washed fish bones

3 litres cold water

2 white leeks

2 sticks celery

50g fresh herbs

12 white peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp olive oil

600ml white wine


Sweat the vegetables and herbs with the olive oil until soft but without colouring them. Add the fish bones and stir to coat. Add water and wine to cover and bring to the boil. Skim and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool – about three to four hours – sieve and store in the fridge or freezer.


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