As we head into autumn, this signature dish of Seafood Soup with Rouile and Croutons from The Plettenberg Hotel is a must-make. Aromatic spices, fragrant fish stock and fresh seafood make for a hearty but refined starter, and the addition of Rouille and Croutons takes it the next level.

For the soup you need:

1 Kg whole fish, such as hake, gurnard etc cut into pieces, (do not use an oily fish like mackerel, trout or salmon)
90 ml olive oil
80 g of each – onion, celery, leek and fennel, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves sliced
Zest of one whole orange
Juice of one whole orange
200 g tinned tomatoes blended
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
A pinch of saffron
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 litres very strong fish stock (see recipe below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the fish stock recipe you need:

Makes 2 litres

1 kg fish bones
1 onion chopped
1 fennel bulb chopped
100g sliced celery
100g sliced carrots
100g chopped leeks
250 g sliced button mushrooms
1 sprig thyme
3 litres water

For the croutons you need:

1 small baguette
Olive oil for frying
1 garlic clove

For the rouille you need:

25 g sliced day-old crustless white bread
A little water
2 Tbl spoon harissa
3 fat peeled garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
¼ tsp salt
250 ml olive oil

To make the stock

  • Put all the ingredients into a large pan and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
  • Strain through a muslin-lined fine sieve, and use as required. If not using immediately, leave to cool, then chill and refrigerate or freeze.

To make the soup

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the vegetables and garlic and cook gently for 20 minutes until soft but not coloured.
  • Add the orange zest, tomatoes, red pepper, bay leaf, thyme, saffron, cayene pepper, and the fish pieces.
  • Cook briskly for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the strained stock and orange juice, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup, then pass through a sieve into a clean pot, pressing as much liquid as possible with the back of a ladle.
  • Return the soup to the heat and season to taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

For the croutons

  • Thinly slice the baguette on the diagonal and fry the slices in the olive oil until crisp and golden.
  • Drain on kitchen paper and rub one side of each piece with the garlic clove.

To make the rouille

  • Cover the slice of bread with the water and leave to soften.
  • Squeeze out the excess liquid and put the bread into a food processor with the harissa, garlic, egg yolk and salt. Blend until smooth.
  • With the machine still running, gradually add the oil until you have a smooth, thick, mayonnaise-like mixture.
  • Keeps in the fridge for at least a week.