a journal of tea-inspired foods and recipes
I use fennel seeds in several of my handmade herbal tea blends. One of my favorite blends has fennel seeds, cinnamon chips, orange peel, cardamom pods and licorice root for a dose of sweetness. Another one I love to sip combines fennel seeds, ginger root, and cinnamon with refreshing peppermint leaves. But I rarely—make that never—sip fennel alone.
When Nutrition Centre sent me a sample of Pukka Three Fennel Tea, I was pleasantly surprised. As soon as you open the box of tea, fragrant fennel wafts over you. I wasn’t sure about just sipping fennel by itself, but when steeped it mellows out and becomes a smooth, sweet and soothing herbal tea. I didn’t even know there were three kinds of fennel. Pukka’s blend includes wild bitter fennel (which tastes slightly bitter and is similar in flavor to celery seeds), sweet fennel (the kind you’re most likely used to buying from a spice shop, with an anise flavor), and fennel leaf (the dried fronds from a fennel root stalk, with more of an herbal, fresh fennel flavor). The combination of three types of fennel is lovely and tastes much better than steeping just the sweet fennel seeds I have in my spice cabinet.
Don’t get me wrong, Pukka Three Fennel is lovely to sip as a tea, but as soon as I sipped it I couldn’t help imagine using the infusion as a flavorful broth. Mussels immediately came to mind. But I’ve never made mussels before, so it became a bit of a challenge to conquer. The challenge quickly faded when I learned how easy mussels are to make: get mussels from a seafood counter you trust; sauté a few aromatics in butter; add a dash of wine and broth (or in this case, fennel tea); throw in the mussels for a few minutes; and enjoy a gorgeous meal. It’s really that easy.
P.S. Many thanks to Nutrition Centre for sending me several samples of Pukka’s herbal tea blends to play around with in my Tea Foodie kitchen!
Makes 2 entrée portions or 4 appetizer portions
2 pounds mussels
6 Pukka Three Fennel Tea herbal tea bags
1¼ cups just boiled water
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large shallot, sliced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 fully-cooked chicken sausage, diced small
½ cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped parsley