This soup is very wholesome, and I like to eat it as a supper dish with toasted French bread in the bowl – this soaks up all the juices and is lovely to eat.

Ingredients

For the Mussels

  • 450 g (1 lb) fresh mussels
  • 225 g (8 oz) mixed vegetables (carrot, onion, celery and leek), cut into 6 mm (¼ in) dice
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 50 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) Fish Stock

For the Soup

  • 2 carrots, cut into 6 mm (¼ in) dice
  • 2 onions, cut into 6 mm (¼ in) dice
  • 4 celery sticks, cut into 6 mm (¼ in) dice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) olive oil
  • 100 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 1 star anise, a few fresh basil leaves, 1 sprig each of fresh thyme and tarragon tied in a square of muslin) or bouquet garni sachet
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 100 g (4 oz) dried or fresh macaroni, cooked
  • 6 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
  • ½ tablespoons Pesto Sauce
  • A few knobs of unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Method

Scrape and wash the mussels well. Remove the beards (the threads that hang out of the shells). Discard any mussels that gape and do not close when tapped sharply with a knife.

To cook the mussels, sweat all the diced vegetables, herbs and spices in the butter for a few minutes, then add the white wine and boil to reduce until almost dry. Add the fish stock, bring to the simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Bring the liquor to the boil and add the mussels. Cover with a lid and shake carefully. The mussels will start to open after a few minutes. Drain the mussels and pass the stock through a fine sieve. Discard the vegetables and spices. Remove the mussels from their shells and keep them moist in a little of the stock. Discard any that have remained closed.

To make the soup, sweat the diced vegetables and garlic in the olive oil and butter for a few minutes. Add the bouquet garni and continue to cook for about 4–5 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Add the white wine and boil to reduce until almost dry. Pour in the mussel stock and simmer for 15–20 minutes.

To finish the soup, add the cooked macaroni, tomatoes and shelled mussels. Stir in the pesto sauce and a few knobs of butter, remove the bouquet garni and taste for seasoning before serving.

“ We’ve all heard of moules marinières but this is my variation on how to eat mussels–it’s nutty, garlicky and buttery.”

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