Poor Man’s Bouillabaisse


Bouillabaisse… Flavor of the sun and the ocean

Scent of thyme and wild fennel on the dry summer breeze, arid, sun drenched slopes, rugged coastline and a wild blue sea…

Marseille, Roucas Blanc District

File:Calanques2.jpg Calanque (Inlet) near Marseille

Anytime I think of Bouillabaisse, Marseille the birth place of this oh so quintessential Mediterranean soup comes to mind. Port city with its mix of cultures, where some streets have more of a Middle Eastern than French feel, fresh seafood abounds and where people’s lives are outside as much as in during the summer months. But I am getting lost in reveries here…


Unless you live close to the sea, and have ready access to reasonably priced fresh seafood of all sorts, Bouillabaisse is not usually going to be an everyday meal. At least for me, the variety of seafood generally used in a soup like that, definitely moves it into the ‘special occasion’ category. However, a couple of quick changes and substitutions, et voilà, now I can get my flavor fix even on days when my budget is slim!



  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups c finely diced onions (from about 2 medium)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed greens reserved, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, in juice*
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water, 1 tsp salt and Rapunzel bouillon cube)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 can water packed sardines
  • 1 can solid tuna,
  • (**optional: leftover cooked fish filets such as tilapia and salmon,  mussels, can of clams, calamari, scallops)

* or equivalent in frozen tomatoes, plus 2 tbsp tomato paste

** Note that you can make this soup at any level of ‘poor’ or ‘not so poor’ by either adding or substituting various fish and seafood items. Starting with a can of Tuna, and a can of Sardines, or adding crab meat, clams, mussels, whole shrimp and/or cooked fish filet such as salmon, trout or tilapia.


  1. In a stock pot, heat oil on medium, then add the onions, cook about 5 minutes until beginning to soften
  2. Add fennel and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, adjusting heat if ingredients start to brown to quickly. Cook about 15 minutes until tender, stirring often.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add a can of water packed sardines, chopped and/or solid tuna broken into bits, (or crabmeat and clams, or leftover cooked fish filers such as salmon or any other seafood that strikes your fancy and is in your budget)

Seriously, if the sea and the sun had a love child, it would be this  🙂

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved