About this recipe:I have been making this "broth" over many years. It is a development from my love of moules Provençal but really is a mussel casserole. Enough for 4 generous portions. To be honest, I make it slightly differently every time I do it and the veg additions vary depending on what is in my larder!
Inspect the mussels and discard any that are chipped, broken or damaged in any way. The mussels should close when tapped, or be tightly closed. Just before cooking, soak the mussels in fresh water for 20 minutes so that they can filter and expel any sand or grit. Remove the beard by holding the mussel and giving the beard a sharp, quick tug towards the hinge of the mussel. Give the shell a scrub and rinse under the tap for a moment or two, then they are ready to cook.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan over a high heat, combine the olive oil with 2 tablespoons butter. Add the bacon and cook and stir until starting to crisp, about 6 minutes.
Add the carrot, parsnip and celery and cook and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the onion, leek and pepper and continue to stir frequently. Finally add the garlic, thyme, chilli flakes and pepper, give a good stir then pour in the wine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a good simmer, cover with a lid and leave for ten minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and give a good stir. After a few minutes, stir in the tomato puree. Bring to a simmer and cook for a further 5 to 6 minutes.
In the meantime, make a buerre manié (French kneaded butter). This will allow you to thicken the broth later without lumps forming from the addition of the flour. Combine 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of flour and mix well. Set aside.
Increase the heat of the broth to medium high and add the prepared mussels, a handful at a time, until they are all in the pot. Bring the heat up quickly until the broth is bubbling then reduce to low medium and put the lid back on. It should not take more than 5 minutes (usually less) for all the mussels to open up, and that's when they are cooked.
Remove the pot from the heat and then using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a warm bowl and keep warm. Throw away any mussels that have not opened.
Return the broth to a medium heat and then with a balloon whisk in one hand stir in the buerre manié and whisk in until the broth thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Divide up the mussels into 4 well sized deep soup dishes. Transfer the broth to a large warmed serving bowl and place in the middle of the table; guests may spoon about a ladle-full of the broth into their bowls with the mussels. Serve with warmed crusty bread.
I make this even just for myself and portion up the mussels and add the broth into freezer containers as single portions. Cool in the fridge then freeze in my chest freezer and I use then within a month. I am very much a "cook to taste" cook and with well like recipes like this I do it with whatever I have in house/larder/garden and tasting as I cook is definitely my style of cooking. I grow herbs in my garden and always have fresh parsley /chives/ rosemary, thyme available as well as a well stocked cupboard of dried herbs and spices.
Serving the dish
Chop up your home made bread into big chunks and put on the table in a basket. Put a good sized empty bowl on the table for the shells. And I suggest that instead of napkins each diner be given a hand towel. Mussels this way call for fingers with a soup spoon for the broth! And 2 bottles of a good Muscadet (and my 1 year old home made Melon de Bourgogne is always on hand) will make an excellent meal go with relish for 4 diners.