Prepare the mussels by scrubbing the shells and pulling out the hairy beards. Discard any that have broken shells, or ones that don't close when tapped on the bench. Rinse well.
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) warm water
1 large pinch saffron threads
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
1.25 litres (44 fl oz/5 cups) good-quality chicken stock
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) skinless, boneless firm white fish fillets, cut into large chunks
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) raw king prawns (shrimp), peeled, deveined, tails left intact
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) mussels, scrubbed, debearded
½ baguette, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, halved
1. Combine the water and saffron and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Add the saffron mixture, tomatoes and stock to the pan. Increase the heat to high. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, for the garlic croutons, preheat the grill (broiler) to medium–high. Brush the bread slices on both sides with the oil, then rub the bread all over with the cut side of the garlic. Place on a baking tray under preheated grill for 1–2 minutes each side or until lightly golden.
5. Add the fish, prawns and mussels to the pan and cook over medium–low heat for 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the fish is just tender and the mussels have opened. (Discard any unopened mussels.) Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately, topped with the fennel fronds and with the croutons on the side.