Crab Bisque

My Shellfish Bisque

Crab Bisque

Jersey Crab Bisque with white crab meat

I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.

What is the difference between soup and bisque?

Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.

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5 from 1 vote

My Shellfish Bisque

I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner. 
Course Appetizer
Cuisine French
Keyword Shellfish, Soup
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 kg whole Prawns
  • 2 litre Fish Stock
  • 1 large Onion peeled and chopped
  • 2 large Carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick Celery washed and cut in half
  • 1 large Leek washed and sliced
  • 200 ml Jersey double cream
  • A large Glass of Pernod
  • 2 tablespoon Tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoon Jersey Butter
  • 2 tablespoon Plain Flour
  • 1 Small handful Parsley
  • 1 Small handful Dill
  • 1 Sprig Thyme
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 Star Anise pod
  • ½ teaspoon Sea Salt
  • A good pinch of White Pepper


  • Fill a large sauce pan with water to three quarters full, put it on the heat and bring it to the boil. Add the salt. Place a large bowl in the sink and fill it with ice and cold water. Carefully drop a handful of the prawns into the boiling water for thirty seconds then lift them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the iced water to arrest the cooking. Remove from the bowl and put them onto a clean tea towel to drain. Continue until you have blanched off all of the prawns. Peel the prawns keeping the prawn tails and the shells.
  • Using a piece of butcher’s string, tie the herbs and star anise between the two pieces of celery to make a bouquet garni.
  • Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and then add the onion, carrot, and leek and cook them until they are beginning to caramelise and turn golden brown, between twenty and thirty minutes. Then add tomato purée and flour and cook for two minutes, stirring continuously.
  • Add the prawn shells, Pernod, pepper and fish stock stir well and bring to the boil. Then turn down the heat add the bouquet garni and simmer it for one hour. When cooked remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Remove the bouquet garni and ladle some of the contents of the pan into a liquidiser, until the liquidiser is no more than one quarter full. Blend it thoroughly for three minutes.
  • Pour the contents of the liquidizer trough a chinois, a very fine sieve into another large, heavy-bottomed pan. Use a ladle to push the bisque through leaving the ground shells. Continue until all of the bisque has been blended and pushed through the sieve.
  • Return the soup to the heat and bring back up to a gentle simmer. Roughly chop the prawn tail meat and add to the soup and cook for a couple minutes. Add the cream and season it with salt & pepper and serve when hot.


You can buy bags of ice from wine merchants and supermarkets.
You can buy shellfish stocks from good quality delicatessens and supermarkets you could use this as a perfectly acceptable base for a bisque.
Find out about bouquet garni here.
A chinois is a type of conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh. It is used to strain, purees, soups, and sauces, producing a very smooth texture.
What to Drink? Some recipes replace the brandy with sherry and a classic dry Amontillado is a perfect accompaniment as is Pouilly-Fuisse or Chablis.
Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour  Raw Fish Milk  Crab

Please see the Allergens Page

2 thoughts on “My Shellfish Bisque

    • The Online Cookery School The Online Cookery School

      Thank you that’s very kind of you to say. Slowly getting better and finding my own voice. Comments like yours make it all worth while.

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