Mussels with a White Wine and Fennel Broth

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Published on: March 5, 2012

This is my version of “Moules Marinieres”.  Moules Marinieres is quite simply, white wine, cream, shallots and herbs.  There’s nothing wrong with simplicity, it is a great way to do mussels but I want to add something extra!  By adding some celery and fennel to the mix we give can make a sharp(er) aromatic tasting broth.

This can be made as a starter, served in small bowls or as a main course.  It takes very little time to make.  Cleaning, sorting and debearding mussels will be the most time-consuming thing in this recipe; It took me and the other half about an hour to sort through 2kg of mussels but it can be done quicker with more experience (it was my first time cooking with fresh mussels).  To clean a mussel, just pull off the beard, lightly wash off any dirt with an old toothbrush and most importantly, don’t leave the mussels sitting in tap water, it will kill them.

To avoid the often mentioned seafood poisoning the rule is this:  Tap an open mussel on a hard surface (chopping board or whatever) and if it closes up, it is alive.  If it doesn’t move, chuck it – it’s dead.  Once you are done cooking, any mussels that don’t open up, are also dead, so don’t try to eat those.  Mussels with broken shells are also likely to be dead, if in doubt chuck them.  Lastly a word on farmed vs wild mussels; farmed mussels are just as good as the wild ones.  Mussel farming is one of the best things we have done for the ocean, they clean up the oceans and they are less likely to be subjected to high levels of mercury.

If you are preparing mussels ahead of time, just wash them and then leave them in a bowl, stick them in the fridge and give them a final tap just before using to check that they are still alive.


Ingredients (Serves 2 as a main):

2kg Mussels (prep’d)

750ml Dry White Wine

500ml Fish Stock

250ml Single Cream

125g Unsalted Butter

5 Ribs of Celery

4 Shallots

2 Bulbs of Fennel + Fronds

1 Whole Bulb of Garlic

2 tbsp Flat Leaf Parsley + extra for garnishing

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper



1.  Start by preparing the vegetables.  Dice the garlic and shallots; slice up the celery and fennel, keeping the fronds aside for now; slice the butter.

2.  Using a large pot over a medium heat, put in a couple tablespoons of oil then add in the shallots and butter.

3.  As the shallots begin to soften, add in the celery and fennel along with some salt and pepper.

4.  Once all the vegetables have softened, add in the white wine and allow to reduce by half.

5.  Add in the fish stock and chopped parsley, set heat to high.

6.  Once the broth begins to boil add in the mussels.  If you can’t fit them all in or if there isn’t enough broth to cover them all, add them in batches using a net or sieve to suspend them in the pot and allow easy removal for the next batch.

7.  When the mussels open (about 3-4 mins) they are done.  Remove them from the broth and reserve.

8.  Check the broth for seasoning, then allow it to reduce slightly.  Add in the cream and stir.

9.  Spoon ladles of the broth over the mussels, garnish with parsley and serve.


You can buy mussels that have already been cleaned and prepared, all you have to do is get them home, check they are still alive and cook them.

The white wine, cream and butter combination can be the base for almost any mussel sauce or even as a seafood stew.

Serve with some chips or “frites” for some good traditional Belgian food.

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