Finally, going full circle, we come back to the starter. If you haven't been following the posts, jump back 2 and you'll understand. It is a bit of a seafood heavy menu I will admit but actually it made such a change from always cooking meat.
This is a sort of Moules Mariniere - I say sort of because being such a classic french dish I have tweeked it and I wouldn't want to offend the purists by calling it a Mariniere.
There is also a huge lack of photos on this post because I was talking whilst cooking. It was so good, and so easy, I decided to use what little I had anyway to share with you. I was watching Jamie Oliver's Friday Night Feast program and they had a whole piece on mussels, how we, England, find them on our shores in abundance and export almost all of them! Most people are scared to cook them and I will admit this is the first time I've cooked them at home. I don't know why I thought it would be any different from work. Impress your guests, give it ago and show off the finest of British produce!
For 4 as a starter, or 2 main courses you will need:
4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
Bunch of parsley
160ml of dry white wine
160g of low fat creme fraiche
To start with you'll need to clean your mussels, throw them in a sink full of cold water and then just pull their 'beards' off. This is the ropey looking bit hanging off in the join of the shells, just give it a good yank. If you spy any broken shells, throw them away and if they are open give the mussel a squeeze. If it doesn't close itself then chuck this one away too. Dead mussels are not your friend. Thats it all done, just leave them in the fridge until you're ready to cook!
Slice up your shallots and pick your thyme. Then whack a good sized, and I do mean good sized, knob of butter in the pan and sweat the shallots, thyme and bay together. You will need a large pan with a tight fitting lid as the mussels will expand as they steam open and you need to keep the lid on! I did this ahead and then just turned off the head and left the pan on the stove. If anything this is the hardest bit.
Once you are ready to cook, get the pan super hot, throw in the mussels and pour the wine over the top. Quick! Clamp your lid on tight!
Wait.... Chat... Sip Wine
In about 3-4 mins you will have gorgeously cooked mussels. Give the pan a little shake and check they have all opened. Now scoop them out with a slotted spoon as you want to leave all the wine/mussel juice behind.
Keeping the heat high, as you want to reduce the wine a little. Then add in your creme fraiche and give it a good stir. I let my bubble for a minute or so then switched off the heat and put in the finely chopped parsley. Do try and chop this as small as you can, chowing down on a massive piece of parsley is not the one.
Now all that is left is to ladle that delicious sauce over the portions of mussels and remember to fish out that bay leaf. You do not want to eat this, trust me.
Divvy out to your guests, give a final salt bae sprinkle of pasley and serve with the crustiest of bread to mop up all that divine juice!
Isn't that just as pretty as a picture!
I used low fat creme fraiche instead of the traditional double cream to try and ease up on the calories, it still worked just as well and was totally delicious! You could also swap out the white wine for a dry cider for a different taste or add fennel, just soften this up with the onions.
I'm also going to try and recreate an incredible lemongrass mussel dish I had in a pub a couple of months ago. Lemongrass, coconut, chilli type affair which was probably the best hangover cure I ever had. I shall let you know my findings...
Remember to put out finger and shell bowls!