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Provençal Fish Soup with Aioli

In September 1996 we cycled from Dijon to Avignon. One morning in Avignon, we wandered in fog around the beautiful garden by the Palais des Papes, admiring the black and white swans, several kinds of diving ducks, a peacock and peahen with tiny chicks. The view of Avignon was quite lovely but fog prevented us from seeing further into the countryside.

After visiting the Palais des Papes, we emerged into brilliant sunshine and went to Le Mescalin bistro (only open for lunch - it is attached to the ritzier Restaurant Brunel that is open in the evening) to have the most fabulous lunch. I had an excellent mescalin salad with goat cheese, tapinade, some sort of caramelized onion and red pepper. The others had poached cod and vegetables with aioli, all perfectly prepared. Of course I tried it and it was fantastic. T has come up with this most reasonable facsimile of our recollection of that wondrous fish dish.

serves four


3 leeks
1 med onion
¼ c olive oil
3 med carrots
1 bulb fennel
8 small new potatoes
2½ c chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
thyme (optional)
herbes de Provence (optional)
fennel seed, ground (optional)
2 lb cod, red snapper or haddock fillets


¼ c mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 Tbsp fine dry bread crumbs

Mix aioli ingredients together well in a small bowl. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving to let the flavours meld together.


  1. Trim the leeks to use the firm white part. Cut in half lengthwise. Chop in thin halfmoons (about ¼ inch wide). Put in a tub of water and swish around. The copious amount of dirt on the leeks should fall to the bottom of the tub. (I do this in a salad spinner.) Drain well and shake them dry.
  2. Put a large stock pot on medium high heat. Add a ¼ cup olive oil. Chop the onion. Put the leeks and onions into the hot oil and saute for 1 or 2 minutes til they are not quite translucent.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut in half horizontally and lengthwise. Wash and trim the fennel bulb. Reserve any fennel leaves for garnish. Coarsely chop the fennel bulb into bite size (or larger) pieces. Wash and cut the potatoes in half. Add to the onion/leek mixture and stir around for a few minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock (or vegetable stock) and lightly boil (medium heat) for 10 to 15 minutes - til the vegetables are done to your liking. We like them to be somewhat al dente. Bear in mind that they will continue to cook a little after you take them off the stove.
  5. Season the soup with salt, pepper and ground fennel seed if you aren't getting enough of the wonderful liquorice flavour from the fennel bulb. Add a little thyme or herbes de provence if you like. Take the soup off the stove and let sit until it is almost time to serve.

Serving Time

  1. Just before serving, remove vegetables and set aside. Heat up the stock to almost boil and gently place the fish on top to simmer gently til it flakes (just a few minutes). Be careful; the fish wants to fall apart.
  2. Gently remove the fish and set aside on a plate. Return the vegetables to the stock to reheat. Ladle stock and vegetables into soup bowls. Gently (gently gently!!) place the fish on top of the bowl. Garnish with a dollop (ooooh I wish there were a better word!) of aioli and a frond of fennel.

Serve the soup with rustic French Bread or crusty baguette, more aioli and light red wine that has been slightly chilled.

soup - printer friendly file
aioli and rouille - printer friendly file

to Christmas Eve Menu 2001

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Soups & Stocks:
Chicken Stock . Vegetable Stock . Broccoli . Carrot-Ginger . Chicken Noodle (Asian) . Gazpacho . Squash with Ginger . Soupe de Poisson . Provençal Fish

Aioli . Rouille . Tartare Sauce

Fish Dishes:
Barbecued Squid . Bengali Fish Curry . Breaded Fried Fish . Crabcakes . Curry (Indian) . Lemongrass Shrimp & Rice Vermicelli . Mediterranean Fish (or Chicken) . Paella . Provençal Fish . Shrimps in Pernod . Soupe de Poisson

envelope ©ejm ejm (aka llizard) & TPH 2001
Toronto Ontario Canada

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