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By Elizabeth AtiaMay 14th 2014
Elizabeth Atia

Recently, while researching a series of articles I am writing on sustainable fishing in Shetland, I found myself at the premises of Blueshell Mussels.

Based in Brae, Blueshell Mussels is the UK's leading rope-grown mussel farm. As a family owned business they pride themselves on their dedication to quality, sustainability and creating value for the local Shetland economy.

Owner, Michael Laurenson, says that his family has a long fishing background, but during the late 90's the white-fish industry went through a rough patch and so they moved inshore. Several boats were decommissioned and the men diversified. Michael began growing mussels in 1997 with one mussel growing line and two mussel rafts. This led to a 49 tonne harvest in 2000 and the rest is history. Their mussels became MSC certified in June 2012.

Four years ago they began processing scallops, and their king scallops are the world's first to become MSC certified. They also process MSC certified brown crab. This is due to the closely monitored activities of a small number of boats within a six mile radius of Shetland. At this moment Blueshell Mussels employ 57 people in both their boats and the processing factory, generating income for the local economy.

Blueshell Mussels process and package their mussels within hours of landing. Their premises are on the waterfront and they have their own pier. I was at the factory as the mussels were being landed; a mussel boat had come in at 2 pm and I had a 2 kg bag of mussels in my hand by 2:30 for that night's dinner. You can't get any fresher than that!

Blueshell Mussels supply their products locally to Frankie's Fish & Chip Shop, the #1 fish and chips shop in Scotland and Busta House hotel, among others, but the majority of their mussels are sent south to restaurants on the mainland. They are dispatched on the same day they are landed and processed.

I did admit to Michael that I am fairly new to this whole shellfish thing, having only tasted my first mussel at a So Much to Sea exhibition in Walls recently, and so he gave me his favourite recipe for cooking mussels. I made this recipe for my family (they loved it, especially the children!) and I am now sharing it with you.

If you are in the Brae area on the 6th, 7th or 8th of June, Blueshell Mussels have teamed up with the award-winning Frankies Fish & Chip Shop for a Mussel Weekend. They are flying up chefs from Glasgow and will treat locals and visitors alike to their top quality MSC certified dishes in a bid to raise money for the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen (RNMDSF). They had the same event last year which raised over £1000.

Blueshell Mussels with White Wine & Thyme

Course: Main
Servings: 6 people
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes


  • Blueshell mussels - 2 kg
  • Olive oil - 2 tbsp
  • Shallots - 2 (finely chopped)
  • Turriefield leeks - 3-4 (finely chopped)
  • Garlic - 2 cloves (finely chopped)
  • White wine - 250 ml
  • Fresh thyme - handful
  • Honey - 1 tbsp
  • Shetland Dairies double cream - 50 ml


  1. Place fresh mussels in a large bowl of cold water and wash thoroughly.
  2. Discard any mussels with broken shells and remove the beards with a knife, if they are present.
  3. If any mussels are open, tap them sharply against the side of the bowl; if they are alive they will close. If they do not close discard them.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large heavy based pan.
  5. Sauté shallot, garlic and leeks until tender, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  6. Add the white wine to the pan and bring to the boil.
  7. Add the mussels, pop the lid on the pot and steam for 5 minutes until the mussels open.
  8. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon to their serving dish(es).
  9. Add the thyme, honey and cream to the mussel liquid and stir gently until combined. Do not let it boil.
  10. Divide the mussels and liquid between 6 bowls, garnish with thyme sprigs and serve immediately with fresh crusty bread for dipping into the sauce.
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