Humans have been eating mussels for thousands of years and still continue to do so with slurps and glee – in Belgium and the Netherlands in particular, where they are likely to be served with chips and mayonnaise… perfection. This version is the classic French dish, cooked in butter, wine, onions, parsley and cream. The delightful juices should be mopped up at the end of a good meal with some crusty baguette. Extra bowls for shells and big napkins are always a good idea.
1kg/2lb mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A pinch of saffron threads
175ml/6fl oz white wine
200ml/7fl oz fish stock
200ml/7fl oz double cream
A bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Discard any mussels that don’t close when tapped. Now melt the butter in a large pan with a lid and gently fry the shallots for 10 minutes, being careful not to brown them. Sprinkle on the saffron, splash in the wine and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until all the wine has evaporated and the shallots are a wonderful golden-brown colour.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then dump in the mussels. Slam on the lid and give the pot a good shake. Simmer for five minutes, then take the mussels out of the pot, using tongs if you have them, and pop into a bowl. Bin any that have not opened fully.
Glug the cream into the soup and scatter in the parsley, then heat throughand gently simmer for five minutes. Put the mussels back in the pan, shake once more with the lid on, heat for a couple of minutes, then ladle into bowls, dividing the soup evenly between them. Serve with crusty bread.