Mussels: La Mouclade
In the midst of the December madness, I popped my head above the parapet and thought how nice a bowl of fuss free mussels would be and had to think whether they were in season or not (if an ‘R’ in the month the answer is yes!). As it was, when I phoned my fishmonger I had missed the boat (quite literally!) and there was no getting any before Xmas. But made a note to self for Jan!
For me having a reliable fishmonger is important, as they will advise on seasonality, when and where the fish came from and offer any tips on how to store, or even cook your produce. Personally, in North Bristol, I use Smith Fish, Westbury Park as I know they supply the freshest and most sustainable fish from the day boats on the South coast, but try and find one local to you that you can get to know. I often just call ahead to get them to put things aside!
Chances are on either Friday or Saturday night we will want to eat something delicious but fuss-free in the preparation stakes; and I find mussels a protein-rich, fast food. The great thing about this recipe is you can clean/prepare the mussels for cooking and leave them in the fridge and sweat off the onions ready ahead of time; then all you have to do is take 5-10 minutes to get the dish pulled together and to the table.
When it comes to mussels, most people are familiar with moules mariniere, and I do enjoy this, but find it’s a bit like drinking cream (which has its place!!) This is why I find this recipe for La Mouclade so wonderful, as it has a thicker sauce with a hint of saffron and curry powder. I first saw it being made by Barny Haughton, when I worked at the Bordeaux Quay cookery school and has been a firm favourite ever since!
Give it a try and let me know how you get on at the Fuss Free Foodie FB group.
Serves 2 for dinner or 4 as a starter
Pinch of saffron strands
1.2kg mussels, prepared*1
120ml white wine
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp medium curry powder
2 tbsp brandy/cognac (optional)
2 tsp plain flour
200ml creme fraiche
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
- Put the saffron in a small bowl and cover with 1 tablespoon of warm water
- Place the mussels and wine in a large pan, cover with the lid and cook on a high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until all the mussels have opened, should be 3-5 mins only)
- Place a colander over a bowl and tip the mussels into the colander and catch the cooking liquid in the bowl. At this point, I place the saucepan lid over the mussels to keep them warm.
- Melt the butter in a medium-sized pan, add the onion, cook gently for a few minutes, then add the garlic and curry powder. Cook without browning for a few more minutes.
- If using the brandy/cognac (if I don’t have any, I skip this step..still tastes great) add this now and cook until it has evaporated/disappeared. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Pour in the saffron and water, then the cooking liquid from the mussels, with exception of the last 2 tbsp, which may be gritty.
- Stir the sauce and bring it to simmering point over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and simmer for 3 more minutes, until it reduces slightly.
- Season with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley. Place the mussels in the serving bowl and pour over the sauce. Stir together gently and serve with plenty of French bread or favourite bread of your choice!
*1 To prepare the mussels, rinse them in plenty of cold water. Discard any that are open, which do not close when you tap the side where the ‘hinge’ is or if gently squeezed. Remove the fibrous ‘beards’ that are on the side of the mussel between the tightly closed shell. Scrape/knock off any barnacles from the outside of the shell and rinse the mussels again to remove any bits of shell. Store in the bottom of the fridge with a piece of damp kitchen roll over the top until ready to cook. When eating the mussels if any remain closed, discard them.
My recipe is a version by Rick Stein La mouclade.