I’m always well up for eating new things, but secretly there are a few foods whose preparation terrifies me. Raw chicken for one. It’s slightly eggy smell, texture and the way it gets under nails disgusts me, but my rule is simple: if I want to eat it….I suck it up and touch the bastard. Squid seems even scarier and although TV chefs always say your fishmonger will be happy to prepare it for you and I know the Sainsbury’s fish counter isn’t exactly the best example of local fishmongery… but the Muswell Hill man’s surly ‘it will mean you will have to wait’ response to my timid query whether he would sort it for me was hardly encouraging. I left tackling squid to another day.
One of my favourite foods in the whole wide world is moules mariniere, or mussels in garlic and white wine. The first time I ate them was aged around 6 when I was taken to a restaurant by grandparents. I ordered a bowl out of curiosity and when the steaming bowl of shells arrived it was bigger than my head. Amazing.
Up till now I’ve always bought those pre-prepared vacuum-packed boxes of mussels in white wine or garlic sauce. Dead easy to reheat in the microwave or on the hob they taste alright, but the tiny amounts for around 4 quid are a bit mean, specially when you consider that mussels are one of Britain’s cheapest sea-foods. The recipes I’d looked at all seemed dead simple but the prospect of live seafood was still a little daunting. Biting the bullet, I picked up a kilo for only £3.75. While it was freezing in December to be stood for 20 minutes rinsing and pulling the ‘beards’ off under the cold tap, it wasn’t revolting and was even a tad therapeutic. Once that job was done it was pretty much as easy as the pre-prepared job. Shallots and garlic sliced and sautéed in butter, mussels in the pan with a glass of white wine, lid on. Leave for 5 minutes then a splash of cream and handful of chopped parsley. That’s it. And I was left for the first time since I was six being actually satisfied with the amount of mussels eaten – possibly cause I consumed half a kilo…….
Moules Marieniere - adapted from Rick Stein’s Food Heroes
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 shallots very finely diced
large handful of parsley leaves picked and finely chopped
large glass of dry white wine
100 ml cream
splash of olive oil
large nob of butter
1) First, rinse your mussels under a running cold tap in a sieve or colander, throw away dead ones - these are ones that don’t close up when sharply tapped or squeezed.
2) Pull little ‘beard’ or dangly hairy bit hairy bit on the muscles sharply off and discard – throw away any that don’t shut after pulling the beard off as well.
3) Give them another good rinse under cold water and heat the oil and butter on a medium heat in a pan deep enough to hold the mussels with plenty of room.
4) Add the shallots and fry until translucent then add the garlic, leave for about 2 minutes then add the mussels and the white wine, give a good stir, turn the heat up to high and put the lid on. Give the pan a shake every so often, after about 3 -5 minutes all the mussels should be open.
5) Throw in the cream and the parsley, give another good stir and your done! Eat with a baguette or fries - use a spoon for the juices. Oh my gosh.