Prawn bisque

This classic seafood soup is ideal for a special first course. A last–minute addition of chopped red capsicum brings a delightful flourish of flavour, texture and extra vitamins instead of the fat in the traditional swirl of cream.

Prawn bisque


  • 500 g raw prawns, without heads
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 4 slices of lemon
  • 4 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 sprigs of fresh parsley, stalks bruised
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (20 g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 French shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (40 g) fine white breadcrumbs, made from day–old slices of bread
  • pinch of paprika
  • 1 red capsicum, seeded and finely diced
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped leaves from the fennel bulb, or fresh herb fennel, to garnish


  1. Peel the prawns and set them aside.
  2. Place the shells in a large saucepan.
  3. Pour in 1.
  4. 25 litres cold water and add the wine, lemon slices, peppercorns and parsley.
  5. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface during cooking.
  7. Meanwhile, use a small sharp knife to make a shallow slit along the curved back of each prawn.
  8. With the tip of the knife remove the black vein and discard it.
  9. Cover and chill the prawns until required.
  10. Allow the prawn–shell stock to cool slightly, then discard the lemon slices.
  11. Line a sieve with muslin and place it over a large bowl.
  12. Process the stock in a blender or food processor until the shells are finely ground, then strain the stock through the muslin–lined sieve.
  13. Coarsely chop 85 g of the fennel, and finely chop the remainder of the bulb.
  14. Place the finely chopped fennel in a bowl, add the lemon juice and toss, then cover closely with plastic wrap and set aside.
  15. Melt the butter with the oil in the rinsed–out saucepan.
  16. Add the coarsely chopped fennel and the shallot.
  17. Cook, stirring frequently, over a moderate heat for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but not browned.
  18. Stir in the breadcrumbs, paprika and stock.
  19. Bring slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat so that the soup simmers.
  20. Add the prawns and continue simmering for 3 minutes.
  21. Use tongs to remove 6 prawns; set them aside.
  22. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
  23. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  24. Return to the pan and add the finely chopped fennel and the capsicum.
  25. Reheat.
  26. Serve garnished with the reserved prawns and chopped fennel leaves.

Serves 6
Preparation: about 25 minutes, plus cooling
Cooking: about 55 minutes


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