for 6 people
The most essential fish being the scorpion fish, as its gelatinous flesh will help bind the flavours during its cooking, furthermore its smell of iodine, characteristic of rock fish, will give an extra special touch. A whiting is also required, as well as “Donzella” fish with their purple and blue streaks, a spiny “San Pietro” , a sea perch, an eel with its golden rings, a sea bass, and a variety of shell fish such as lobster, scampi, squilla.. You will certainly not include all these fish varieties (as they are almost impossible to find), but you should select at last four from the list. It should include two firm varieties (choosing from lobster, scorpion fish, Bass or Great weaver fish, crab) as well as two or three tender types (choosing between sea bass, whiting, “sanpietro”, cod). To flavour this boiled fish soup or “bolh” it is necessary to add salt and pepper, saffron, olive oil, garlic, onions, fennel, marjoram, thyme, laurel, tomatoes and a little dried orange peel.
How is it possible to travel to Provence without a stop in Marseilles when Bolh-abaissa is awaiting us.?
A brief history.
The origins of this typically Marseillaise, and therefore provencal dish, are very ancient .
Certain legends have it that it was invented by the Goddess Venus.
However it was more probably a fishermen’s dish, when they saved a few fish for their families after the fishing trip. It was at one time a very simple and common dish which as become more complicated and costly. The taste depending on the type of fish and shell fish used.
It is firstly necessary to gut and clean the fish and then cut into medium sized pieces. Then place three finely chopped onions in a pan together with 4 crushed garlic cloves, 2 peeled tomatoes from which the seeds are removed, a piece of thyme, a piece of fennel, a laurel leaf and the orange peel. Place the firm fish on top of this, wet with a glass of oil. Cover with boiling water to which salt, pepper and saffron is added. Allow to boil at a high temperature for 5 minutes. Then add the soft fish and drain. The two types of fish should be served in two different dishes. Take a round plate and lay slices of bread on it (which were known as “zuppe” thus explaining the original name of the dish in Italian, even if we don’t actually soak bread in it), wet them with the boiling broth and add marjoram. Bolh-abaissa is normally served accompanied by rovilha, a type of garlic based mayonnaise to which saffron and strong chilli pepper is added. If you have carefully read the recipe you will have understood its name, bolh-abaissa. The cooking time is brief: everything needs to be boiled in ten minutes, then lower the heat so as to allow the “bolh”, or broth, to thicken.