Forget the dietary resolutions and continue celebrations this month , says Philippa Davis

I have never felt the need to torture myself in January with severe disciplinary actions regarding my diet. It’s dark, cold and often wet, and I want food that makes me feel happy and comforted.  For me, few ingredients do the job so well as butter, cream, pasta and potatoes, which are all included in this month’s ‘jolly’ January recipe.


Serves 4



  • 100ml dry white wine 
  • 4 bay leaves 
  • 1kg mussels, cleaned  


  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 8 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into 1cm dice 
  • 2 tbsp butter 
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 200g shallots, peeled and finely sliced 
  • 150g leeks, cleaned and sliced into
    1cm rings
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced 
  • 3 tbsp plain flour 
  • 220ml whole milk 
  • 220ml light pheasant or ham stock, plus a little extra if needed 
  • 280g waxy potatoes, scrubbed clean or peeled then diced into 2cm cubes 
  • 200ml double cream 
  • 10g chives, finely sliced


 Add the mussels, wine and bay leaves to a large, hot pan with a lid. Place the lid on and cook for a couple of minutes until the mussels all open. Tip into a bowl, allow to cool slightly then shell the mussels (keep a handful in their shells for serving). Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve to remove any grit; you need about 300ml. If you have less, top up with extra pheasant or ham stock. 


In a large, heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat fry the bacon in the oil until crispy them remove to one side. In the same pan, add the butter, sauté the garlic, shallots, leeks and celery until softened and translucent then stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, 300ml of mussel cooking liquor and the 220ml of stock. Add the potatoes then season.  Bring to a simmer and, stirring occasionally, cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Roughly chop the cooked mussels and stir in along with the double cream and chives. Warm through then turn the heat off. 

To serve

Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, then serve hot with the crispy bacon; use the remaining mussels in their shells to decorate.