As with most favourite dishes it comes with a little back story. Although in this case, the story is pretty much – went on holiday, had this soup, came home and took to the kitchen to recreate. But imagine, if you will, Paris in early November: crisp, clear days and star flecked nights, a young(ish) couple still in the heady days of early romance, a tiny bistro tucked away somewhere near Montmartre. That’s what I think about when I eat this soup. And I also think, gosh, I like mussels.
1 kg mussels2 pinches saffron
500ml white wine
5 shallots, chopped finely
2 large garlic cloves
30g plain flour
200ml skimmed milk
200g half fat crème fraiche (ensure that this is at room temperature before adding)
Serves 6, 7 pro points per portion
First prepare your mussels – de-beard, discard damaged ones, give a quick rinse - you know the drill.
In a large pan, bring all but a 50ml shot glass of the white wine to the boil and then tip in your mussels and cook briskly for around 5 minutes until all of them are open (any that aren’t open at the end of cooking should also be discarded). To the extracted shot of wine, add the saffron and leave to infuse.
When the mussels are cooked (the point at which the majority of the shells have opened to reveal their plump treasures), drain over a large bowl. D recommends muslin to ensure any grit is caught. Put aside the delicious liquor and set about removing all the mussels from their shells. Yes, a slightly tedious job but cook's prerogative – you get to nab a few at this stage.
Now rinse and wipe out your pan and put the butter on to melt while you blitz the shallots and garlic into a smooth puree. Add this to the melted butter and cook for around five minutes, after which time add the flour and stir vigorously into a smooth paste.
Ladleful by ladleful return the reserved mussel liquor to the pan, simmering for a minute or so when it has all been incorporated. You can now add your golden shot of saffron infused wine, the milk and the crème fraiche. Simmer gently, while whisking, until you have a fragrant, creamy soup base. The mussels can now be returned to the pan to warm through while you, the cook, season to taste.