1 kg black mussels, scrubbed and beards removed4 400gm whole pink snapper, red emperor or coral trout, cleaned, filleted and heads reserved2 bulbs baby fennel, fronds removed and reserved2 stalkscelery, from heart, cut into 1 cm pieces6 spring onions bulbs1 carrot, cut into 1cm pieces100 ml extra-virgin olive oil2 cloves garlic, bruised150 ml Noilly Prat500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock2 pinches saffron threads1 sprig thyme6 vine-ripened Roma tomatoes, blanched, deseeded and cut into 1cm pieces6small baby fennel (see note)½ cup flat-leaf parsley, thinly slicedTo garnish:chervil cressTo serve:crusty bread and aïoli
Place mussels in a bowl, pour over 100ml wine. Heat a heavy-based saucepan over high heat for 2 minutes, add mussels and wine, cover, cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking pan occassionally until mussels open. Strain, reserving juices and cool. Remove mussels from shells, discard shells and unopened mussels. Strain juices through a muslin-lined sieve. You will need 200ml. Refrigerate mussels and juice until needed.
Using a large cleaver, halve snapper heads. Coarsely chop 1 bulb of fennel, 1 stalk of celery, 3 spring onions and carrot. Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add fish heads, vegetables and garlic, sauté for 10 minutes or until soft, add Noilly Prat, cook until almost evaporated. Add remaining wine, cook for 5 minutes or until evaporated, add chicken stock, 1 litre of water, reserved mussel juice, a pinch of saffron and thyme. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a muslin-lined sieve into a saucepan. Discard solids.
Heat stock over medium heat, bring to the boil, cook for 30 minutes or until reduced by half. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finely chop remaining large baby fennel, celery and spring onion. Add vegetables, tomatoes, small baby fennel and remaining saffron to stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Add snapper fillets, cook for 4 minutes or until cooked through, add mussels and cook for another minute or until heated through. To serve, place a snapper fillet in each serving bowl, top with mussels, then ladle over soup and vegetables and scatter with reserved fennel fronds and herbs. Serve with crusty bread and aïoli if desired.
Note Small baby fennel is available from select