Molly Malone, after whom the song was named, was a famous Dublin fishmonger. Among other things she sold, ‘cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o’.
Wash the cockles and mussels in several changes of cold water checking that they are all tightly shut. Put the wine, shallots, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, fennel and garlic into a wide stainless steel saucepan and add the cockles and mussels. Cover and cook over a gentle heat for a few minutes, stir frequently and as soon as the shells start to open pick them out. Remove the cockles and mussels from their shells and keep in a bowl.
Strain the cooking liquid and reduce it over a high heat to concentrate the flavour; taste frequently while it boils to make sure it is not too salty. Thicken with roux (for method), then thin out to a light consistency with the boiling milk. (If the milk is not brought to boiling point the acid in the wine will cause it to curdle.)
Taste for seasoning. Just before serving, heat the soup, add a little cream and put some or all of the cockles and mussels back in.
Serve in old-fashioned soup plates with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. Serve tiny crisp croutons separately.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.