Serves 4 as a starter.
- 20–30 cockles in their shells, well washed and scrubbed – discard any that are not tightly shut or don't close when tapped
- 50ml (2fl oz) white wine
- 25g (1oz) butter
- 125g (4½oz) chopped onion
- 125g (4½oz) chopped trimmed fennel bulb (reserve any fennel fronds from the top)
- 0.25 tsp salt
- good twist of freshly ground black pepper
- 175g (6oz) peeled, chopped potato
- 125g (4½oz) smoked haddock, trimmed, boned and cut into 1cm (½in) dice
- 450ml (16fl oz) fish or light chicken stock
- 100ml (3½fl oz) double or regular cream
- Put the cockles and wine in a saucepan and cover with a lid. Put on a high heat and steam until the cockles open. This will take only a few minutes but they will need an occasional stir and you can pick them out as they open. When they are all open, transfer to a heatproof bowl with any juices and set aside for later. Discard any cockles that remain closed.
- Put the butter into the same saucepan, then add the onion and fennel and season with the salt and pepper. Cover and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the potato, put the lid back on and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every so often and being careful not to brown the vegetables. Add the smoked haddock and stock and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until the potatoes are totally soft.
- Transfer to a blender and whiz for a few minutes. Clean out the pan and return the blended soup to it through a sieve. Add the cream and reheat, but do not boil.
- Divide the cockles among four hot bowls. Pour the soup evenly over the cockles and serve with the snipped fennel fronds on top.