If you love French food but don't like how fattening it can be, try this French fish soup with saffron. It is loaded with flavour and has real pizzazz – without the calories.
I have spent a fair amount of time in France – half a year in Paris, a winter in rural Provence, a summer high up in the French mountains and a couple of autumns picking grapes in Alsace.
I’ve always said that I will believe there is a heaven if, when I die, I find that my afterlife will be spent in a French bakery.
What I’m not so fond of is the cream- and butter-rich part of the French cuisine. This soup though, is a perfect example of how it’s possible to cook something that is both filling and bursting with flavour, yet low in calories.
French fish soup is often served with “rouille”, a yummy but calorie-laden kind of mayonnaise, grated cheese and toasted pieces of bread. Take away these toppings and you’ve got a healthy and - if you follow my recipe below - still mega-tasty soup.
Serves 4 as a main course:
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb - shoots and root cut off, tough outer layer removed, halved; tough bottom core cut out from each half and then sliced finely
1 medium-sized carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
300ml, 10floz, 1.3 cup, white wine (use a decent wine that you would be happy to drink as well)
1 sachet, 4g, 1 heaped teaspoon, of saffron threads
4 tablespoons tomato purée
1 litre, 1¾ pints, 4½ cups, fish stock
Salt and pepper
500g, 1lb 2oz, white fish, such as haddock, plaice, cod - but any white fish will do, cut into large pieces
Optional – grated Parmesan cheese
1. Start by soaking the saffron in the white wine. Fry the onion, fennel and carrot in the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften. Keep stirring to make sure the vegetables don’t burn.
2. Add the garlic and cayenne pepper, stir and fry for another minute. Add the white wine and saffron to the pot and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the wine has reduced by half.
3. Add the tomato purée, the stock and season with salt and pepper, stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a 5 minutes. Add the fish, bring back to a simmer and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
4. Let the soup cool down to room temperature before whizzing the soup in a blender – or use a stick blender in the pot. Reheat and check the seasoning.
This French fish soup is very tasty on its own but sprinkling over a bit of grated Parmesan cheese is not going to add many calories and will enhance the flavour even more.
I like to serve it with toasted sourdough bread topped with tomatoes, garlic and parsley and a salad consisting of mixed lettuce leaves and avocado. I’ll sprinkle a bit of olive oil and some really decent balsamic vinegar over the salad and – voilà! - you’ve got a meal so massively super-tasty it’s hard to believe that it’s also incredibly nutritious and low in calories.