The flavours of the Mediterranean mingle in a broth touched with a hint of liquorice from the fennel and ouzo and packed with lovely chunks of white fish and tender mussels.
20 mussels, scrubbed
½ cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, frond reserved
400 grams potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each ground fennel and cumin
¼ cup aniseed liqueur such as ouzo or pastis
4 cups vegetable stock
500 grams firm white fish
¼ cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
sea salt and ground pepper
Mussels: Place the mussels and water in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and cook until opened. Transfer the mussels to a bowl, discarding any that don’t open. Strain the cooking juices through a fine sieve into a bowl, leaving any gritty sediment in the saucepan. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, keeping some in the shell for garnish.
Soup: Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, fennel, potatoes, carrot and garlic with a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spices and ouzo and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and the reserved mussel juice and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked. Cut the fish into large bite-sized pieces and add to the soup along with the crème fraîche. Simmer gently until the fish is just cooked through. Roughly chop the mussels and add to the soup along with the parsley.
To serve: Divide the soup between bowls and top with the reserved fennel fronds, a mussel and a grind of pepper.