Monday, 9 April 2012


Good day readers,
I have been asked by a certain “hungry man” to be a guest fish writer in this blog (because the primary author has allergies to all the best things in life; fish and shellfish).
After a rather hearty Easter, filled with Spring lamb, beef on the bone and robust wine, I thought it might be nice to take things down a notch or two and celebrate the “fruits de mer”. Thus I present a recipe for your culinary pleasure- my take on French mussels.
Many people fear buying mussels in the shops for two reasons- 1. The preparation is extensive compared to other meats. 2. Everyone is concerned about feeding people bad mussels. However if you follow a few simple rules, you cannot go wrong.

1) Preparation- The tools you require are running cold water (never soak your mussels in water- they will lose their lovely sea-salty flavour and then eventually die) and a blunt knife.
2) Tip all mussels into a bowl/colander and immediately discard any with broken shells. Keep any tightly closed mussels. Any mussels that are open, give them a firm tap on the work top; if they close they are keepers. Any mussels that remain open must be thrown away.

3) To de-beard the mussels you should grip the beard between thumb and blunt edge of the knife and pull gently but firmly away from the mussels hinge. If they have barnacles, do not scrape them with the knife (this will result in a black jus later on) instead just brush them with a soft sponge. If they don’t come off with a sponge, they won’t come off when you cook them.
4) Mussels do not keep! Aim to cook them on the day you buy them.
5) Everyone prepares their mussels in different ways, find the way you find most efficient and stick to it.
French mussels-(starter)
1 knob of Butter
Garlic 2 finely chopped cloves
2 glasses white wine (Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, I like chardonnay for this recipe)
Mussels for 4 people
4 shallots
1 bundle of 4 bay leaves and 6 sprigs of thyme. (you don’t have to bundle them, I just find it easier to extract them for presentation)

3 to 4 tbsps of fresh chopped parsley (traditionally flat leaf but curly leaf would work too).
3 to 4 tbspns of whipping cream/double cream (single cream is too thin and will split)
Some good stiff French baguette bread

Heat a saucepan, and pour in the white wine and boil off the alcohol (only needs 45 seconds). Heat up a large saucepan and add the large knob of butter, shallots, garlic and the bundle of herbs. Stir until shallots are soft. Add wine and cover with the lid. When it looks to be getting all hot and steamy in there, it’s time to add the prepared mussels, recover with the lid and cook for 3 minutes only (any longer and the mussels will be rubbery and unappealing). Next add the cream and chopped parsley together, replace the lid, and give the pan a jolly good shake up, to make sure all the mussels are covered in the sauce.

This is a great way to impress friends and family as many people fear making mussels, when actually it’s not hard at all.
For variations, try mixing up ingredients from different continents. Let your instincts guide you and soon shallots can become lemon grass, pepper can become chilli, parsley can become coriander, double cream can become coconut milk.
Every seaside fishing town across the world has its own version of this very basic recipe, so come on, the world is your oyst........ mussel.

Next up... I got sole, but I'm not a soldier.

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