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Tip the mussels into a large bowl of cold water. Discard any that remain open when tapped, then drain well and pull away any ‘beards’. (Fresh mussels look black and shiny and should only smell pleasantly of the deep sea – the vast majority should be tightly closed. Avoid any that smell ‘fishy’, look dry or are mostly open.)
Thinly slice the vegetables and garlic. Roll the chilli in your hands to loosen the seeds, then slit in half and shake out the seeds. Slice the flesh into thin sticks, then stack together and finely chop. Pick over the thyme sprigs, discarding the thick stalks, and pick the parsley leaves from the stalks. Prepare the chips (see recipe, below right).
Place a large, heavy-based sauté pan (with a lid) on the hob and heat until you can feel a strong heat rising. Pour in the oil, then immediately toss in all of the vegetables, chilli and thyme. The thyme sprigs will crackle if the pan is hot enough. Cook for about 1½ mins, shaking the pan and stirring the vegetables until they start to wilt.
With the heat still on high, toss in all the mussels and shake the pan so they form an even layer. Cover with a lid and cook for another 1-2 mins, shaking the pan once or twice.
Uncover the pan and pour in the wine and Pernod. Shake and cook for another 1½ mins so the wine reduces by half, then cover again and cook for another min. Place a large colander over a bowl and tip the mussels and vegetables into the centre. Discard any mussels that remain closed. Fry the chips.
Pour the strained liquid back in the pan, reheat and stir in the crème fraîche and whole parsley leaves. Check the seasoning; you may not need any salt. Return the mussels and vegetables to the pan and reheat, shaking the pan, then divide between two large soup bowls. Serve the chips and mayonnaise (recipe below) alongside.
TIP: Make the mayo and prepare the chips before you start the mussels. Fry the chips after you have cooked the mussels and while they are still draining in the colander, then finish the sauce.