Mussel and Saffron Soup

Mussel and Saffron Soup ©Kevin Ashton 2008
Mussel and Saffron Soup ©Kevin Ashton 2008

With the UK mussel season about to end and still a little chiil in the air, I thought it time to share a recipe from my newspaper column.  This recipe is one of my all time favourite ways to eat Mussels, so French and such a great combination of flavours (saffron, coriander (ciltrantro) tomatoes and of course mussels). Don’t forget if you want to get your soup as vibrant a colour as mine you have to steep the saffron threads in a small amount of boiling water to release all that colour and flavour.

The Blue mussel is grown both in waters around the UK and the New England States, often the larger sizes you see are commercially grown on ropes. Mussel farming has extended the availability to almost year round; even so I do still prefer to buy UK mussels during months that have an R in them for best quality and larger size.

Ingrediants (serves 4)

1 kg (2.2 lb) live mussels

750ml (30floz)*chicken stock

200g (8oz) peeled diced potatoes

½ cup (8floz) blush or white wine

1 medium white onion diced

Several large pinches of saffron threads

200ml Whipping cream

1 large vine ripe tomato

2 Tbsp chopped coriander (not heaped)

  1. Place the saffron strands in a teacup, cover with boiling water and allow to cool.
  2. Wash the live mussels in a sink of cold water, discarding any dead ones (that are open).
  3. Scrub off any barnacles and then drain well.
  4. Heat a large heavy saucepan then add the cleaned mussels and wine and cook on a high heat with the lid on until all the mussels have opened.
  5. Remove from the heat and allow them to cool down.
  6. In a separate saucepan melt the butter, add the diced onions and potatoes and cook on a moderate heat stirring occasionally without colouring the vegetables for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Add the stock and allow to the soup to simmer until the potatoes are tender.
  8. Take the cooked mussels from the saucepan and move them to a separate bowl rinsing the mussels under cold water to remove any grit.
  9. Strain the cooking liquid (from the mussels) through a very fine strainer, return to the heat and add the cream, saffron mix and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile liquidize the stock and potatoes until very smooth then strain into the saffron cream.
  11. Remove the seeds from the tomato, cut the tomato into a small even dice then add to the soup.
  12. Remove half the shell from the cleaned mussels and return them to the soup and gently heat.

To Serve
Add the Coriander then season with salt and pepper and serve with warm crusty bread. You can also add a few drops of good quality olive oil as you can see in my photo.

Chef’s Tips
If you don’t have a very fine strainer you could lay a sheet of clean paper towel inside your strainer to catch any grit. Buy your saffron from your local Asian store if you can because it is usually cheaper, fresher and a better quality. *You could substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock if you wish.

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