Often a good soup accompanied by warm French bread seems the most desirable meal there could be. Main-course soups should be nutritious, sustaining and a fusion of flavours; this is just such a soup.
Rinse the mussels in cold water, then scrub them thoroughly, pulling off any beards, and rinse again. Discard any open mussels that do not close when tapped lightly. Pour the wine into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, then cover and boil for about 2 minutes, until the shells have opened. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a bowl and remove them from their shells, discarding any that have not opened and leaving 8-10 unshelled for garnish. Keep the mussels on one side in the bowl, tipping any juices back into the saucepan with the wine. Then pour the wine and juices through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan.
Peel and finely chop the garlic, then add it to the wine and mussel juices with the stock, saffron and paprika. Bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave for 20-30 minutes. Finally stir in the cream.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan, remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Put back on the heat and gradually add the stock and cream mixture. Bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer gently, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with cayenne pepper and salt and cover the pan.
Shortly before serving, slice the cod into 2.5-4cm/1-1½in pieces. Roughly chop the parsley leaves. Bring the soup to a rolling boil, stirring, then drop in the pieces of cod and simmer gently for 4-5 minutes, until just cooked through. Add the shelled mussels, then pour in the lemon juice through a strainer, stir gently and remove from the heat. Taste again for seasoning. Scatter the chopped parsley on to the soup, garnish with the unshelled mussels and serve at once.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.