Serves 4

Mussels make a great-flavoured base for a soup, and can be prepared the day before if necessary. You can serve it like a broth with all of the mussels out of the shell, or leave a few in. Don't be tempted to buy cheap saffron, especially that stuff they try to flog you at markets abroad. Good-quality saffron is expensive, but you just need a small pinch and it's well worth paying the extra.

1kg live mussels, bearded and washed

1 glass of white wine

1.5ltr fish stock

60g butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1tbsp flour

1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into rough 1cm dice

A good pinch of saffron

150ml double cream

1tbsp fennel tops or dill

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the mussels in a large saucepan with the white wine and cook on a high heat, for 3-4 minutes or until all of the mussels are just open. Drain in a colander over a bowl and save the cooking liquor. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes on a low heat, stirring every so often. Next add the flour then gradually stir or whisk in the reserved cooking liquor and fish stock. Bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for 15 minutes then add the potatoes and continue simmering for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile remove the mussels from their shells. Add the cream, saffron and fennel tops and continue simmering for another 5 minutes, re-season if necessary, add the mussels, simmer for another couple of minutes and serve.