Mussels work a treat in soups and wet dishes. Not only do you get the mussel flesh but also the lovely briny stock from the cooking process. It's this stock that provides a great depth of flavour in this dish. This is a simple rustic soup that can be prepared a day in advance if required.
½ cup white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
200g potatoes, peeled and cut into dice roughly 1cm (I like Dutch creams at the moment)
750ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
1 cup mussel cooking liquid (see method)
2 tsp lemon juice
a pinch of paprika and 1 tbsp chopped chives to serve
2 thick slices country-style bread, crusts removed
50ml mussel cooking liquid
50ml olive oil
1. Warm a large saucepan over a high heat. Add the cleaned mussels (see how-to below) and a splash of white wine to the saucepan and cook covered until the mussels just open. Remove the mussels from the heat and cool. Reserve the cooking liquid and remove the mussels from the shells. Roughly chop the mussel meat and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Meanwhile warm the butter and oil in a stainless steel saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, cook gently until the onions are soft and translucent, taking care not to colour the onion at all.
3. Add the potatoes, vegetable stock, 1 cup mussel cooking liquid, bay leaf and thyme and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potato is soft. When cooked remove the thyme and bay leaf, puree the soup in an upright blender, strain the soup and return to the saucepan. If the soup seems a little thick for your likening add a splash more vegetable or mussel stock.
4. To make the croutons, preheat oven to 180C.
5. Tear the bread into small pieces. Toss the bread in mussel cooking liquid and olive oil. Bake the croutons for 6-8 minutes or until golden.
6. To serve, return the soup to the stove top bringing it to a simmer along with the cream and lemon juice. When ready, ladle the hot soup into six bowls, distributing the mussel meat and croutons evenly. Finish by drizzling a teaspoon olive oil over the soup, and adding a pinch of paprika and chopped chives.
How to clean mussels
To prepare mussels for cooking, soak them in cold water for a few minutes, changing the water twice, or place in the sink under running water. Discard any mussels that are already open and don't close when gently tapped or that have broken shells. Scrub each mussel clean with a stiff brush to get rid of any barnacles, and remove the hairy "beard" that sticks out from the shell by pinching it firmly between your thumb and forefinger and pulling it towards the hinged end of the mussel shell until it comes out, then discard.
If you like this recipe, try my stuffed mussels with tomato sauce.