Cooking challenges are part of the fun when food marketer Judy Sendzul of Omega Foodworks ( and her friends get together



  • 2kg fresh BlueBay mussels
  • fresh, crusty bread, to serve

For the fennel and aquavit sauce:

  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 medium-sized fennel bulb, sliced
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 10ml fennel seeds
  • 1 small hot red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 250ml water
  • 5T aquavit or pastis
  • bunch fresh fennel leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 30g fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 30g butter, heaped


1. Scrub and rinse the mussels under cold running water; discard any that have already opened. Do not remove the beards at this stage.
2. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Place the cleaned mussels into the water and poach them for 2–3 minutes until they’ve just opened. Drain and discard any that have not opened. Set them aside to cool slightly then remove the beards.
3. To make the fennel and aquavit sauce: fry the onions, bay leaves and fennel bulb in the olive oil until soft. Add the fennel seeds, chilli, white wine, water and aquavit. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes with the lid off. (You can store this in refrigerator and finish it off later if you wish.)
4. Add the poached mussels, fennel leaves, parsley, salt and pepper and butter. Don’t overcook; just ensure the mussels are hot. Cover the pan with a lid, shake until the mussels are evenly coated in the velvety sauce.
5. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Chef’s tip: For food safety reasons, it’s essential to discard any raw mussels that are open before cooking and any that remain closed after they’ve been cooked. To remove the beards from the poached mussels, pinch the shells together and gently pull the beard out.

This recipe serves 6.