- tightly closed mussels in the shell 1.5 kg
- dry white wine 1 cup
- fennel 1 large bulb, trimmed and chopped
- olive oil 2 T
- butter 2 T
- garlic 2 cloves, crushed
- red-skinned potatoes 300 g, peeled and chopped
- good-quality fish or seafood stock 3 cups cream 1⁄2 cup
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- fennel fronds, to garnish
Clean the mussels using a small sharp knife, or get the fishmonger to do it for you. Soak the tightly closed mussels in iced water for 1 hour. Discard any mussels that are not tightly closed.
Place the mussels in a large, heavy saucepan and add the wine and a few fennel fronds. Cover tightly and turn up the heat. Leave for a few minutes, then check to see whether the mussels have opened. Remove them from the pan as they open, leaving any unopened ones in the pan. Give them a chance to open but discard any that remain stubbornly closed. Set aside the mussels and strain the liquor. It should be about 1 cup.
Gently cook the chopped fennel in the olive oil and butter until very soft but still pale. Stir in the garlic and potatoes. Pour in the reserved liquor and stock and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Set aside 1⁄4 of the mussels in the shell for garnishing. Remove the remaining mussels from their shells.
Blend the soup, adding half the shelled mussels, plus any extra liquor. Stir in the remaining shelled mussels and the cream. It shouldn’t need salt but a grinding of pepper would be good. Once cooled, chill. Chill the reserved mussels in the shell for garnishing.
To serve, thin down the soup with more stock if necessary. Check the seasoning and garnish with the mussels in the shell and a few torn fennel fronds. If you like, add a drizzle of cream to each serving.