Recipe: mussels, ’nduja, cream and fennel

This doesn’t require too much prep time and tastes far superior to anything you might expect with a cooking time of less than half an hour, says Rebecca Oliver. You can use a spicy cooking chorizo (taken out of its skin) if you can’t find ‘nduja. I like to use clams in place of mussels when feeling more extravagant.

elements: serves 3 as a starter, or 2 as a main

  • 2 tbsp additional-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ of a fennel bulb, very finely diced (save fronds to serve if you like)
  • ½ a shallot, very finely diced
  • 1½ tbsp ‘nduja paste
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • ½ tsp of fennel seeds
  • 850g live mussels in shells, cleaned
  • generous glug of dry white wine, approximately 50ml-75ml
  • 2½ tbsp single cream
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt and recently ground pepper
  • handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve (optional)
  • baguette or toasted sourdough, to serve


  • To clean the mussels, place them in a colander in the sink and run the tap so there is a flow of water. Scrub them with a brush or your hand so all the stuff on the outside comes off, and pull off the beard (the long stringy bit that comes from out of the shell) by tugging it hard until it releases. Any shells that are open just need a tap to work out if they are alive or not. If they close up then they are good to use; otherwise discard.
  • Heat a saucepan big enough to fit the mussels (that has a tight-fitting lid) over a medium heat. Add the oil, fennel and shallot and a big pinch of salt. Stir and sweat for about 15 minutes, ensuring it doesn’t catch. You want it translucent and sweet-tasting, not singed. Remove the shallot, fennel and oil combination from the pan and put to one side. Wipe the pan and place it back over a high heat. Get all your elements together so when the pan is smoking you can throw things in in series very quickly to avoid any burning.
  • When the pan is hot, add the ‘nduja, followed 5 seconds later by the shallot and fennel combination (including the oil), the garlic and the fennel seeds, and mix well so it doesn’t catch. Add the mussels and the wine and give them a really good shake. Put the lid on and leave for a few minutes, or until the majority of mussels have opened up. Using a slotted spoon, divide the mussels between two plates, keeping the remaining sauce over a high heat. Discard any mussels that do not open. Add the cream to the sauce and taste. Season as required and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Spoon the sauce over the mussels, along with the reserved sprigs of fennel fronds (if using) and finely chopped parsley. Serve with a lovely hunk of bread.


Taken from The Dusty Knuckle: Seriously Good Bread, Knockout Sandwiches and Everything in Between by Max Tobias, Rebecca Oliver and Daisy Terry, published by Quadrille at £20. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £15.99, call 020-3176 3835.

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