Mussels, or moules as our Gallic cousins prefer to call them, occupy one of our seafood blindspots. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many fishmongers in the UK that:
- Stock fresh mussels regularly.
- Sell them at an affordable price.
Alas, the closest many people get to this wonderful seafood is the vacuum-packed ready meal-type supermarket fayre.
If you like fish, it is worthwhile seeking out your nearest fishmonger – they offer a far better service and choice than the supermarkets – plus you’ll be supporting a local business. A good fishmonger will offer tips on cleaning fish, recipes, what to buy and they will order stock specially for you.
I am lucky enough to live close to a Chinese supermarket, which has an excellent fish counter, with everything from live lobster and crab to razor clams and carp. It is also great value for money – something I am ever more conscious of these days. So, whenever I want to remind myself of those balmy summer evenings eating outdoors in France, I pop over and buy a couple of kilos of mussels.
Moules a la creme is a great starter or main and can be accompanied by crusty bread or chips (frites) depending on how many will be dining. However, remember if you are cooking for a large group, you need a large pan – preferably a stockpot with a cover.
This version feeds five and takes about 20 minutes.
1.5 kilo of fresh mussels
1 bottle of Muscadet
2 cloves of garlic
1 finely chopped onion
250ml of double cream or creme fraiche, depending on how rich a dish you prefer
Salt and pepper
Optional crusty French bread and fries
Cleaning your mussels
Empty your shellfish into the sink and cover with cold water. Remove any mussels that fail to close when immersed – give them a couple of taps on the sink if they still don’t close put them in the bin.
It is always best to play safe with shellfish
Take a small paring knife and carefully de-beard the mussels (removing the straggly seaweed that anchors the mussel), you can also scrape away any other crustaceans that have attached themselves to the shell. This is the most time consuming part of the preparation – but if you are accompanied by a bottle of chilled white wine, the job will soon be done.
- Melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes – until the onion sweats and softens, taking care not to burn the garlic.
- Add wine – I prefer lavish use of the bottle, but you can just as easily add only a glass and make up the rest with water. The main thing is that you have enough liquor in the pan to steam your mussels.
- Bring to the boil, pour in the cleaned mussels, and cook for two minutes. Remove lid and stir/fold the mussels. Replace cover.
- Allow to steam for a further three minutes – check the majority of the shells are open and remove from the heat.
- Stir in the cream and warm through.
Serve immediately garnished with freshly chopped parsley.
If you like mussels, why not try our recipe for whelks with mayonnaise.
Find more recipes on our Food & Drink channelLast modified: June 10, 2021