Fennel and orange soup with seafood
by Derek Johnstone, Head Chef at Borthwick Castle

Scottish seafood is renowned across the world for its quality and freshness. There are few finer sights for a chef than a delivery of fresh shellfish; living in East Lothian, I feel so fortunate to have such amazing, fresh seafood right on my doorstep. Fishermen go to huge efforts to bring you the delicious seafood on your plate, often in treacherous conditions, so it’s an ingredient that always commands my respect.

With Scottish Seafood Week less than two weeks away, from the 4th-11th October, I’d like to share a recipe with you this weekend which uses some of the finest fish and shellfish from our local waters. I’ve chosen three of my favourites here: mussels, razor clams and langoustines.

Shellfish can be a little intimidating to cook with, but the trick is to keep it straightforward and not mess around with it too much or add too many flavours. Your local fishmonger will be happy to advise you on the most seasonal shellfish and help you with preparing your chosen fillets of fish. By going directly to a fishmonger, you know you’re always getting a quality product.

Before you start cooking, make sure to clean and prepare your mussels and razor clams. This does take a wee bit of time, as each individual razor clam and mussel needs to be checked. Check the clams are closed - any open shells should close when gently tapped. If they don’t open, bin them. Place all the clams in a colander and run cold water over them to get rid of any excess sand. While you’re doing this, double check the outside of the shells to make sure they aren’t broken. Any damaged shells should be discarded, too. Repeat this process with the mussels. It’s time-consuming but absolutely worth it.

You can prepare most of this fennel, orange and seafood dish in advance; it makes a great starter or lunch, or a more substantial meal if you add a little more fish. It’s pretty tasty on its own, too! The orange and fennel really set off the simple, clean flavours of the seafood, without being overpowering.

Serve your soup with plenty of warm, crusty bread and butter, or with Scottish oatcakes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

For the fennel and orange soup


  • 3 fennel bulbs, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • White of 1 leek, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of thyme, picked
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 2 long strips of orange peel (no white pith)
  • 10ml Pernod
  • 1.5 litres fish stock
  • A few threads of saffron
  • Salt, to taste

For the seafood


  • 2x fillets of sea bass, scales and pin bones removed
  • 8x langoustines
  • 8x cleaned Shetland mussels
  • 4x razor clams
  • 3x banana shallots
  • 75ml dry white wine

For the fennel and orange soup


1. Wash and slice all the vegetables thinly.

2. Add the butter to the pan and allow to melt without colouring.

3. Add the sliced vegetables and the garlic to the butter, and season lightly with salt and the saffron threads.

4. Allow the vegetables to cook slowly until soft and translucent, then add the orange peel, Pernod, chopped tomatoes and thyme leaves.

5. Cook out for 15 – 20 minutes then blitz in a food processor.

For the seafood


1. Peel the banana shallots and slice thinly.

2. Clean the shellfish under cold running water.

3. Heat up a heavy-based saucepan and mix the shallots, wine and mussels together. Once the pan is very hot, add the rest of the ingredients and place a lid on the pan.

4. Allow to steam for 3-4 minutes, the remove from the heat.

5. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and cover with a damp towel to prevent from drying out. Reserve some of the shellfish liquor for later.

6. Repeat the process with the razor clams. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove from their shell, discard the intestine and slice the clams into bite-size pieces.

7. Place the langoustines in the freezer for 20 minutes, then place straight into boiling salted water for 2 minutes.

8. Remove from the water and allow to cool, then separate the head from the tails. You can keep the heads for a garnish and peel the tails.

9. Season the sea bass on the flesh side, then pan fry on the skin side until crisp and 90% cooked. Flip the fish over, then strain onto a paper towel.

To serve

To serve, heat the langoustines, mussels and clams in a little of the liquor left over from steaming the shellfish earlier. Make sure the shellfish are warmed but be careful not to boil them.

Arrange the seafood in a deep bowl and pour a generous amount of soup around. Serve piping hot with a large chunk of crusty bread on the side.