I have to admit, I’m not really much of a fish-eater – I’ve never really mastered the technique of enjoying a piece of fish whilst looking for bones. And after a couple of unfortunate incidents, I tend to restrict my fish selection to tuna or swordfish. But there’s one provencal dish using fist that is one of my favourites – soupe de poissons. I’m not talking about bouillabaisse here – from my perspective, it has far too many scary pieces of fish with nasty little bones that can catch you unawares. I’m talking about the deliciously smooth fish soup that you can get in so many restaurants around Provence. For me, it’s not just about the flavour, but I really enjoy the ritual associated with eating this dish. It always comes accompanied by a bowl of croutons, a pot of delicious spicy rouille (a garlic mayonnaise) and grated gruyere. You patiently spread the rouille generously on to a few croutons, float them in the soup and then sprinkle liberally with gruyere. The result is wonderfully flavoursome.
One of my favourite places for soupe de poissons is a restaurant in Sanary sur Mer called Le Provencal on rue Jean Jaures opposite the market. It’s an informal place run by a lovely couple who extend a warm welcome and serve a variety of traditional provencal dishes from the menu as well as offering daily specials. Highly recommended! But if you can’t get to Sanary, most provencal restaurants will have a version of this fabulous dish.