Put some ‘mussel’ in your soup

Karen soup

Posted on: 6th October, 2014

Category: A Flavour of West Cork

Contributor: Karen Austin

Lettercollum Kitchen Project, 22 Connolly Street, Clonakilty. Karen@lettercollum.ie, Lettercollum.ie, Lettercollumkitchenproject.com

There is only one hitch with gardens — when the crops are ripe they need eating. They don’t wait politely on the plants until we need them.

It’s been a fantastic growing season and we have eating like kings and queens. Even now we are getting bucketsful of beans – French, Runner and Borlotti, plenty of kale, spinach and chard and have had enough courgettes not to be sad that they are finally calling it a day and dying back. I am a bit miffed that we have eaten all our tomatoes – they tasted fantastic. I swear if there’s one reason to grow your own it has to be that flavour.

The apples have been dropping off the trees and are making their annual queue. There’s a row of buckets across our kitchen floor looking for attention. I’ve made some chutney and we’ve eaten a few apple tart tatins, stews and apple cakes but mostly we have been juicing them. Mixing up the varieties and trying different combos. It’s delicious, and gets through quite some apples each time.

We’re about to start in on the pumpkins. There’s an interesting crop of Queensland Blues and Crown Princes growing outside and also an unknown variety growing in the tunnel – this pumpkin is enormous and I’m curious as to what’s inside it, but as it’s still growing, we’ll have to wait and see.

Pumpkins have become quite fashionable to eat and rightly so as they are so versatile and nutritious. As this is the October edition, it seems only right to have a pumpkin recipe.

Here is a recipe for delicious elegant pumpkin soup with mussels.

Don’t use a Halloween pumpkin to make this dish, as the flavour would be very disappointing. The best pumpkins for cooking are the ones with dense dark yellow/orange flesh such as Crown Prince and Queensland Blues. Butternuts, although technically a squash, are good too.


Pumpkin and Mussel Soup


1 onion

25g butter

25mls olive oil

1 carrot

2 stems celery

1 potato

roughly 600g pumpkin

1 litre vegetable stock

1 kg fresh mussels

a splash of white wine or cider

salt and pepper

150ml crème fraiche



Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan, then add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions. Cook on a medium heat. Finely chop the celery and add to the pot. Peel and dice the carrot and potato and stir in. Season the vegetables with a little salt and pepper and cook gently for ten minutes without browning. Reduce the heat if the vegetables begin to stick. Peel the pumpkin and chop into 1cm chunks. Stir into the pot and cook for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then turn to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Take off the heat and buzz the soup until smooth.

Don’t season the soup yet — wait until the mussels have been added.

Clean the mussels carefully. Discard any with a damaged shell or that doesn’t close and remove the woolly beard if it is still attached. Put the clean mussels into a large shallow pan together with a splash of wine or cider. Cover with a lid and cook on a high heat, shaking every minute or so until the mussels have opened. This won’t take long. Take off the heat, as soon as they are open, take them out of the pan and put aside to cool. Drain the cooking liquor through a sieve to remove any gritty bits and stir this into the soup. When the mussels have cooled enough to handle remove most of them from the shells, just save a dozen or so for garnish.

Gently reheat the soup then stir in the mussels. Take the soup off the heat, stir in the crème fraiche and taste. Season with a little salt and black pepper if you think it needs it. Serve in bowls with a couple of shell on mussels for garnish.

There are still some spaces free on our autumn cooking classes:

Saturday, November 1 – Cooking Without dairy or gluten; Saturday, November 8 – Thai Cooking – Lots of zingy dishes; Saturday, November 15 – Lebanese Cooking  – We’re visiting the Lebanon in October so we will have some new recipes to share. Saturday, November 22 – Winter Warmers – Exciting healthy recipes.

If you are interested or would like more information please call to the shop or drop us an email

We are excited about the upcoming publication of the Lettercollum Cookbook, which has lots of tasty and easy recipes for everyday healthy eating. It should be ready at the end of next month. We’ll keep you posted.

Happy Halloween



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