Food Flying solo with delicious mussels

Mussels are sometimes a forgotten source of joy for solo cooks.
Mussels are sometimes a forgotten source of joy for solo cooks.

Cooking solo? Try this mussels, fennel and wine recipe from chef Signe Johansen’s cook book Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One, published by Pan Macmillan

Serves 1


  • 500g mussels, rinsed under cold running water and scrubbed 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped (reserve the fennel fronds to garnish at the end)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 1 small bay leaf
  • 50-75ml dry white wine 25g butter
  • Grated zest of ½ unwaxed lemon and a spritz of the juice
  • Sea salt (optional) and freshly ground black pepper
  • Bread, to serve (I like a big, crunchy baguette)


  1. Tap any mussels with open shells. If they  remain open after a few minutes, discard them. To remove the ‘beard’ that pokes out of the shell, hold the mussel and yank the beard out in the direction of the mussel’s hinge. Place the mussels in a bowl of cold water for an hour or so.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a low-medium heat, add the fennel and fry for 5 minutes, then add the shallot. Fry for 1 minute, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute.
  3. Add the bay leaf and wine. Crank up the heat, bring the wine to a simmer and add a crack of pepper. Finally, add the mussels and cover. Cook over a medium-high heat until the mussels steam open: small ones will only need a couple of minutes, larger ones 3-4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mussels to a bowl and whisk the butter into the pan to emulsify the sauce. Add the lemon zest and juice, taste the sauce and season it accordingly — the mussels will release quite a lot of salinity, so you may not need to add salt.
  5. Discard any closed mussels and serve in a shallow bowl with the sauce, scattered with the fennel fronds, along with whatever bread you fancy.


Substitute the wine for dry sherry.

Add a heaped dessert spoonful of crème fraîche or double cream to the sauce once you’ve removed the mussels from the pan.

Add saffron, chilli or harissa for an extra kick.

Add chopped parsley, thyme or basil, just before serving.


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