200ml/7fl oz white wine
25g/1oz unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled, chopped
1 leek, trimmed, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, outer leaves removed, sliced
large pinch saffron
¼ tsp hot curry powder
250ml/9fl oz fish stock
150ml/5fl oz double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the caramelised onions, heat the butter and oil in a frying pan over a low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and fry for 6-8 minutes, or until softened.
Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are sticky and soft.
Season the caramelised onions, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
For the bread, grease a 1kg/2lb loaf tin with butter.
In a bowl or a food processor, mix together the yeast, flour, salt, sugar and butter until well combined.
Gradually add the warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a soft dough. (You may not need all of the water.)
Add the caramelised onions and knead gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the onions are combined into the dough and the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough into the prepared loaf tin, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place to prove for 1½-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 6.
When the dough has proved, transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown. (NB: The bread is cooked through when the tin sounds hollow when tapped firmly on the base.)
Meanwhile, for the soup, heat a large pan over a medium heat until hot.
Add the mussels and white wine and cover the pan with its lid. Steam for 2-3 minutes, or until all of the mussels have opened. (Discard any mussels that have not opened.)
Strain the mussels through a fine sieve into a bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Using your hands, discard the shells from all of the mussels and set the mussel flesh aside.
Return the pan the mussels were cooked in to the heat and add the butter. When the butter is foaming, add the shallots, garlic and leek and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until just softened.
Add the carrot, fennel, saffron and curry powder, stir well and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the reserved cooking liquid and the fish stock. Stir well and bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender.
Add three quarters of the mussels to the pan and stir carefully.
Let the soup cool, then transfer to a food processor in batches and blend to a purée.
Pass the blended mussel and saffron soup through a fine sieve and return the sieved liquid to the pan. Add the double cream, season, to taste, with salt and black pepper, then cook gently until heated through.
To serve, ladle the mussel and saffron soup into four serving bowls. Garnish with the reserved mussels. Drizzle each bowl of soup with a swirl of cream and another of olive oil. Serve a slice of the caramelised onion bread on a plate alongside each portion of soup.
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