I’m not mad on mussels. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but honestly, they are really ugly. And you’ve got to remove a beard before you cook them. I have never cooked them or eaten them in a restaurant so I’ll be stepping a little out of my comfort zone when we make moules mariniere (mussels in white wine). I am however very comfortable with a dead fish and filleting knife in my hand which is just as well as we are also making bouillabaise with five different types of fish. The rouille that goes with the fish soup is a mayonnaise made with roasted red peppers, baked potato and chilli. Chef tells us that bouillabaise was originally made with bony rock fish which the Marseille fishermen were unable to sell to restaurants or markets so I’m grateful that more elegant fish are now used.
After Chef Francis’s demonstration we all tuck in, dipping thinly-sliced baked garlic bread into the rouille and then into the bouillabaise. The fish is cooked perfectly and the stock, flavoured with saffron (from Greytown), star anise and vegetables is delicate and delectable. I am surprised how delicious the mussels are.
We’re working in pairs today which I just love. So when we get into the kitchen we divide up the tasks. I’m filleting the snapper, tarakihi, John Dory, gurnard and leather jacket, plus scrubbing and de-bearding the mussels. My partner already has the stock simmering by the time I finish my filleting and cleaning.
I get together the mise en place for the rouille. The recipe says half a red chilli so I put about a quarter into the food processor along with the other ingredients thinking I can add more if I need to. I taste it and it blows my head off. I give a sample to my partner and expect a scowl at least. It’s got a helluva kick but he’s okay with that. I hope that Chef is too.
The mussels in white wine are pretty last minute so I start on them as soon as the fish is gently poaching in the stock We are to serve one piece of each of the five fish in the bouillabaise and we are determined to just cook it so that it doesn’t break up. The crispy garlic croutons are ready too.
It’s a perfect result all round. And Chef likes the rouille. There’s a huge amount of washing up to do but it doesn’t seem such a pain when it’s been a good day.
Buttometer reading 700 grams