Josh Emett's Market Fish Bouillabaisse

, from Issue #91. June, 2020
Photography by Sarah Tuck.
Josh Emett's Market Fish Bouillabaisse

Star chef Josh, of Rata, Madam Woo, Hawker & Roll and Ostro fame, shares a dish that is also on the menu at his newest acquisition, the award-winning Oyster Inn. 

Serves: 4-6


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 bulb fennel, chopped, fennel tips reserved
1-2 red chillies
pinch saffron
2 large tomatoes, chopped
250 grams tomato pulp
300 grams fish bones (roast for 30 minutes on 200°C)
800ml fish stock or water

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 fresh mussels
12 clams or tuatua
2 tablespoons white wine
12 prawns
500 grams fresh fish (hapuka or cod is best) cut into 50-gram pieces


In a large pot, sweat down the onions and garlic in the oil, then add the fennel, chillies and saffron. Cook until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato pulp.

Cook down for a few minutes then add the roasted fish bones and the stock/water. Simmer for 30 minutes then blend and pass through a coarse sieve and finish seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

To serve: Heat a medium pan to medium hot, add the olive oil then the mussels, clams and wine. Cover with a lid and steam for a few minutes. Add the soup and bring to the boil. Add the prawns and the fish and simmer for a few minutes until cooked through. Serve with crusty French bread and garlic aioli. Serves 4-6

Josh on why he chose this dish:
Bouillabaisse is from Marseilles, where they always use rock fish and quite cheap fish. To Kiwify it we use NZ fish and shellfish. I don’t use pastis, which is often used, or Ricard. But I do use fennel and I make a stock that is quite classical, with onions, tomatoes, garlic, that sort of thing. I roast fish bones in the oven, put those into the sauce, cook the sauce out using fish stock or water, then blend the whole thing to a pulp and push it through a sieve. It’s delicious – a really good, full-flavoured dish. So that’s the first layering of all those flavours. The second time round you start back in the pan with garlic oil, mussels, squid if you’re using it or octopus. Then you go back on with the sauce again. I don’t put tomatoes in but you could. You have the base layer, the bouillabaisse sauce, then you start again almost with the shellfish and layer again. The layering is key. I like mine with a bit of sweetness in it. You can finish it with honey or honeycomb. Sugar’s fine but honey is really good, as is chilli. At The Oyster Inn I serve it just like this. You can do it with a rouille as well – like a saffron aioli.

We haven’t had people over yet; we’ve been too busy working. But when we do, I'd do bouillabaisse, or a big paella on the barbecue, or fideuà, a pasta version of paella. And the music usually reflects the dish; so a bit of Spanish guitar perhaps for paella and so on.

The first week of lockdown we didn’t do much. We just stopped and tried to figure it out. Then by the second week we thought, let’s start cooking. We did loads of cooking with the kids, perfecting our pizza dough and pancakes; we wanted to make the best ever.

We’re slowly getting back up to speed. The Oyster Inn is open, a couple of Madame Woos and Hawker & Rolls. Rata isn’t open yet.

I talked to the chef yesterday for half an hour about what we’re cooking, why he’s cooking it. It’s not a time to panic and re-write the rulebook. People want to go to Rata for what Rata is. Now is not the time to reinvent it.