Shellfish and Saffron Broth


  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 3 lb / 1.35 kg fresh mussels
  • 1 lb / 455 g prawns in their shells
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 leek
  • handful of parsley stalks
  • 2–3 dill stalks
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 pt / 570 ml dry white wine
  • ΒΌ pt / 140 ml water
  • 1 carrot
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dill fronds, to garnish


Soak the saffron in 2–3 tablespoons boiling water. Scrub the mussels, tug off the beards, knock off any barnacles with the back of a knife, and rinse thoroughly. Discard any which do not close. Put them in a bowl, and put to one side. Shell the prawns, and put them to one side, reserving the shells. Put the prawn shells in a saucepan with the onion halves studded with the cloves. Trim and thoroughly wash the leek, cut it in half and slice the top half into rings. Add these to the saucepan, together with the parsley stalks, dill, peppercorns, wine and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the carrot (the carrot peeling can go into the simmering broth), and cut into fine strips. Slice the bottom half of the leek lengthways, and shred it in a similar fashion. Put these vegetables in a sieve, and pour boiling water over to soften them. Rinse under cold running water, and put to one side.

Put the mussels in a heavy, lidded saucepan, and pour the hot broth over them. Cover, bring to the boil, and simmer for 2–3 minutes or just until all the mussels open. Discard any which fail to open. Carefully drain the broth into a clean saucepan, through a sieve lined with muslin wrung out in hot water. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells. Divide the prawns and mussels between heated soup plates, and scatter over them the carrot and leek shreds. Pour the saffron liquid into the broth, bring to the boil, and add pepper to taste. Pour into soup plates, garnish with dill fronds, and serve at once.