Show me your mussels!
As the weather relentlessly batters the South West, I am continuing with my fishy theme, looking to the coast for seasonal inspiration. Through the months of October to March, the sea’s offerings are extremely abundant, full of hardy shellfish, built to cope in stormy waters. Hard-shelled mussels, oysters, scallops and winkles, are just a few pearls of the ocean at their height through these turbulent winter months.
As the end of prime season draws ever closer, I wanted to take advantage of the beautifully plump salt-water mussels on offer this time of year. These succulent morsel, encased in their stunning gluey-black pearlescent armour, don’t just look pretty, but pack a punch in terms of flavour and freshness.
To enjoy this beautiful mollusc in all its glory, it is important to seek out bright and clean shells, avoiding those suffering from chipped and cracked exteriors. Their scent should not be pungently fishy, but resemble the fresh smells of the seaside; slightly sweet but distinct salty aroma.
Mussels have long graced fishmongers’ counter – seemingly a staple haul of our British coastline – yet, its safe to say, they are not conventional to the ‘household’ dinner table. Maybe through trepidation, or uncertainty, mussel cooking is often left to the ‘professionals’, enjoyed as a humble customer – and I’m quick to admit I often fall into this category! But with being readily available on the european food market since first cultivation in 1200, they surely warrant further attention.
Why we don’t cook mussels more at home is a mystery – they are quick, easy, nutritional and simply satisfying. Prepared and cooked with tender loving care, obeying by a couple of fail-safe rules, there seems to be little reason not to dive into a large bowl steaming mussels within the comfort of your own home. Swimming in a fragrantly fresh seafood broth, these delicious morsels are fantastic as a quick supper, indulgent lunch, dinner party starter, or family feast for sharing.
To put a twist on this supposedly French classic, try my Somerset recipe that draws on the complementary flavours of cider and chorizo to enhance the sea-fresh aromas. Accompanied by a quick and simple soda bread, adds depth of flavour, and ensure no broth goes to waste – dipping and dunking is compulsory with this recipe!
Preparing your mussels:
Preparing your mussels is simple, but undoubtedly essential. By following these simple guidelines, the end result is sure to rival any restaurant prepared moules;
1. Discard badly damaged mussels or ones that fail to close after a sharp tap.
2. Clean the shells under cold water and remove the beards by pulling them towards the hinge of the mussel.
3. Rinse thoroughly in cold water 3 or 4 times, replacing with fresh water after each rinse, removing all the unwanted grit.
4. Whilst rinsing, discard any mussels that float to the top.
- 500g Fresh mussels
- 1 Small red onion
- 50g Cooking chorizo
- 1 Clove of garlic
- 250ml Dry cider
- Handful of roughly chopped parsley
- Salt and Pepper
- Splash of cream
- 1 Lime
- Wash and prepare your mussels with reference to the preparation guide provide in this blog. Finely chop the onion and garlic, and roughly dice the chorizo. Fry off for one minute in a saucepan (that has a lid) – no oil needed as the chorizo provides the necessary oils.
- Add the mussels to the pan once the onion has had time to slightly soften. Pour over the cider and place on the lid. Allow to steam for 3 – 4 minutes without removing the lid – part way through, lightly shake the pan to ensure thorough cooking.
- Remove the lid before adding the cream, parsley and seasoning. Replace the lid and again lightly shake the pan to coat the mussels in the sauce.
- Serve immediately, along with a little more fresh parsley, wedges of lime and warm soda bread straight from the oven.
- Look to cook at least 500g of mussels person (this recipe works on a generous portion for one)