1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red chilli – finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
1 leek – sliced in half lengthways then sliced
1 fennel bulb cleaned peeled and sliced thin – approx 2/3 cup
1 kilo of large mussels
1 bottle of Dark Beer ale or lager – Dogbolter, German Dunkel, Red Hill Scotch ale, Mornington Brown Ale, Mountain Goat Stout you get the idea.
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons of Fennel fronds – chopped reserved from the fennel bulb
Clean and scrub mussels making sure to remove beards. Or buy some Boston Bay Mussels from South Australia (also go by the name Spencer Gulf) they come pre packed, cleaned, scrubbed, de-bearded and alive!
Add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat. When butter has melted add half the garlic and the chilli and fry gently for several minutes then add the leeks and fennel, gently sweeting for about 5 minutes or until translucent then remove from pan and set aside. Add the rest of the olive oil to the same pot you cooked the fennel in and when hot add the rest of the chilli and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes then tip in the mussels and about a third of the bottle of beer put lid on and turn heat to high. Bring beer to a boil and boil/steam the mussels shaking the pot to get the liquid swirling around the mussels. When all the mussels have opened remove from the heat and pour the mussels into a colander that is sitting in a large mixing bowl so as to capture all of the cooking liquor. Put the pot back on the heat and add the fennel and leek mixture back into the pot, the canned tomatoes and another third of the bottle of beer stir and bring to the boil. Remove the colander with the mussels from the large mixing bowl and set aside. Strain the cooking liquor from the mussels through a fine sieve to remove any dirt, grit or bits of shell and then add the liquor back into the pot bring it to the boil and then turn it down a little so that it can simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the mussels back into the pot and stir through so they get the hot liquor into them, simmer for two minutes then add fennel fronds stirring through.
Serve in big bowls with fresh crusty bread and a spoon to slurp up the fantastic juice.
Ps don’t forget to finish the remaining third of beer!
Note: do not salt this soup as the mussels, if really fresh, will be full of sea water which will be quite salty but equally delicious.
Really Important note: If some mussels do not open get a knife pry them open and EAT them. It is a false hood that they should not be eaten!! They are perfectly safe and delicious. Before cooking if you notice a smelly mussel ditch it or a mussel that has a cracked or broken shell – it will be dead so ditch that one also. If you get good mussels that are alive then they are fine and safe to eat even if they do not open.