A bouillabaisse in South France is supposed to be a fish stew. This vegetarian version is cooked in a particular way so that you have the feeling of eating Provence mythic bouillabaisse fish soup. It might come from the use of saffron, or because vegetables are first sauté in olive oil.
Bouillabaisse is a typical French dish from Marseille. It comes from the South France Provencal dialect meaning “when it boils, lower the heat”. Bouillabaisse use to be a stew made by fishermen with unsold fishes or fishes not proper for sale. They use to cook them with vegetables in sea water. It became one of South France most popular dish.
As fishes might be a bit expensive or difficult to find depending on the region, another recipe appeared, called the poor’s bouillabaisse (la bouillabaisse du pauvre) or the one-eyed bouillabaisse (la bouillabaisse borgne). As the first one is vegetarian thus less expensive, in the second one poached eggs are added (poached in the bouillabaisse broth before mixing the soup), the egg looking like an eye in the soup.
In this soup, vegetables are sauté in olive oil and mixed at the end (except a few potatoes kept for decoration, that will make a contrast of textures). Therefore they can be chopped coarsely, which makes the soup quick to prepare. Vhite wine deglaze is optional. Saffron is added at the very end. Adjust saffron, garlic and orange zest quantity according to your taste. When purée, adapt the quantity of liquid and potatoes, depending on how dense you like your soup. It might seems of many adjustments but make this recipe yours, just as French families do in home cooking.
It is served like the classic bouillabaisse, accompanied by grated cheese, croutons rubbed with garlic (also optional if you are not keen on garlic. I prepare only half with garlic in order to offer the choice) and rouille. Rouille is a the Provencal sauce served with Bouillabaisse or other fish soups : kind of a mayonnaise with garlic (it then becomes Aïoli) and also spices (such as saffron) and mashed potatoes (not in all recipes). Once more it’s up to you, you can choose to serve just the soup.