"The sweet combination of saffron, tomatoes and basil gives balance to the briny mussels," says Cooke.
100 mlolive oil50 gm eachcarrot, celery, onion and golden shallot, finely diced5garlic cloves, coarsely chopped4vine-ripened tomatoes, bases scored¾ tspsaffron threads1 cup(firmly packed) basil, stalks reserved1fresh bay leaf1thyme sprig100 mldry white wine500 ml(2 cups) fish stock1 kgblack mussels, beards removed200 mlpouring cream
Heat a frying pan over high heat, add olive oil, vegetables and garlic, and cook covered with a tight-fitting lid until just tender (5-7 minutes).
Meanwhile, blanch tomatoes until skins split (20 seconds), drain and refresh in iced water. Drain, then remove and reserve skins and seeds, dice flesh and set aside.
Add saffron, basil stalks, bay leaf, thyme, tomato skins and seeds to vegetables, season to taste, and cook covered until vegetables are tender (5-10 minutes). Remove lid, add wine and reduce by half (5-10 minutes). Add stock and bring to a rapid boil. Add mussels, cover and cook until mussels begin to open (3-5 minutes), then remove from stock. Discard basil stalks, bay leaf and thyme, add cream, bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.
Remove mussels from shells and transfer half to a blender, add broth and process until smooth, then strain through a fine sieve, season to taste and bring to a simmer.
Divide remaining mussels among serving bowls with diced tomato and basil leaves, then pour hot mussel broth over and serve.