Homemade aïoli thickens and adds irresistible garlicky flavour to this delicious seafood stew. Use bread to mop up all the lovely juices - slightly stale is best as it will hold together better.
For the aïoli, peel the garlic and remove the central green germ from any of the cloves. Grate into a food processor and add the egg yolks, lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and the mustard. Blend until smooth, then gradually add the oil, until you have a smooth paste. Set aside in the fridge.
For the mussels, clean and de-beard the mussels. If any are open, and do not shut when tapped firmly, then discard immediately.
Heat a large pan with a lid over a high heat.
Add the oil and half the onion. Gently fry until soft then add the bay leaves and a generous splash of wine.
Once hot, add the mussels immediately followed by 200ml/7fl oz of water. Quickly clamp the lid on and steam the mussels for 3-5 minutes, or until they have just opened. Tip the mussels into a colander set over a bowl, so that you retain the cooking juices, discarding any that haven’t opened.
When cool enough to handle, pick the mussel meat from the shells and place in a bowl. Reserve the strained cooking liquid.
Wash the leek and finely slice the white part. Fry the remaining onion, leek, fennel and carrot in a large pan with a little olive oil until tender. Add a splash more white wine, the reserved cooking liquid from the mussels and 100ml/3½fl oz water. Add the saffron and a little salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 10 minutes.
Once the broth has simmered for 10 minutes, whisk in a large spoonful of the aïoli to thicken. Follow with the picked mussels and allow them to warm through before serving.
To serve, put a thick slice of stale bread in each serving bowl and pour over the stew.
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