3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 large fennel bulb, sliced, feathery leaves reserved
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 tablespoons Pernod, dry Vermouth, or Pastis
pinch of saffron threads
grated zest of 1⁄2 an orange
few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 x 400 gram tin crushed Italian tomatoes
4 cups fish or vegetable stock
400 grams waxy potatoes, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
500 grams firm white fish fillets, thickly sliced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
reserved fennel fronds
purchased garlic aioli
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions, fennel, garlic, cumin and the bay leaves. Season, cover and cook until tender. Stir in the tomato paste, Pernod, saffron, orange zest and the thyme and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock. Simmer for 20 minutes to infuse the flavours. Add the fish and potatoes and simmer gently until the fish is just cooked. Season if needed.
To serve: Ladle the soup into warm, shallow soup bowls and top with a few of the reserved fennel fronds. Serve with warm crusty bread and a dollop of garlic aioli.
Vegetable Stock: heat a little oil in a large pot and add a chopped onion, leek and carrot, a stick of celery, a tomato, a few mushrooms and 2 cloves of garlic. Toss, cover and sweat the vegetables over a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so as not to let them scorch. Add 2 1⁄2 litres of water, 4 peppercorns, a few parsley stalks and a bay leaf. Bring slowly to the boil, skimming as necessary and simmer for 2-3 hours.
Cool and strain, pressing down on the vegetables to extract maximum flavour. Refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze.