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Mussel and pumpkin chowder with watercress pesto

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Mussel and pumpkin chowder with watercress pesto

Green-lipped mussels from the Marlborough Sounds have put Marlborough on the international map. There are many great ways of enjoying mussels, but I've kept it simple. I've cheated by buying pre-made pumpkin sour, but why not if it saves time? If you have your own favourite pumpkin soup recipe, make it up, adding a little coconut cream like I've done at the end of the preparation. The mussels are quickly steamed and then served in the soup with a peppery watercress pesto.


  • 16 fresh green-lipped mussels
  • ½ cup water or white wine
  • 1 bayleaf
  • a few peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 440 gram can concentrated pumpkin soup
  • 140ml can coconut cream
  • 1 cup milk

Watercress pesto

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • ½ cup pinenuts
  • 65 grams watercress (about 3 cups gently packed leaves)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan


  1. Scrub the mussels well, removing the beards. Discard any that are open. Heat the water or white wine, bay leaf and peppercorns in a saucepan and bring to full boil Add all the mussels at once and cook for 5-8 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any that don't open.
  2. Remove the shell-half the mussel isn't attached to and discard. Set aside the mussels still attached to their shells.
  3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes over a low heat until it has softened slightly.
  4. Add the pumpkin soup, coconut cream and milk and stir over a low heat until the soup is hot. Add the mussels in their half shells and heat.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve with a large dollop of watercress pesto on top and grilled French bread crisps. Add a little sour cream if wished.

French bread crisps

  1. Cut a French stick on an acute angle to make a long (approximately 15cm slice of bread). Continue to cut in this fashion so you have thin slices that are very long on the angle. Brush the sides with butter or herb butter and grill until golden and crispy.

Watercress pesto

  1. Put the garlic and pinenuts into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Tear the leaves from the watercress and discard the stems. Add the Parmesan and watercress and gradually pour the olive oil down the feed tube until the mixture forms a thick paste. Store in an airtight container.

Cooks Tips

- Why not toast the pinenuts before making a pesto. You'll have an even nuttier flavour - just delicious.

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