Dinner on Friday night has to be a bit more special than dinner on any other night. It deserves some respect, the working week has finished, you can lie in, stay in your pjs all weekend, eat junk, get drunk (maybe all the above in one weekend, hey, I’m not here to judge!) – the world is your oyster at the weekend. Last night was not about the oysters though, it was all about the mussels. Moules mariniere to be precise. This wasn’t from my cookbook challenge – the main course was – but I was flicking through a new cooking magazine (it’s a sickness, I can’t stop myself) and saw a mussel recipe and knew instantly that I had to have some. I’m only a recent convert to mussels, I was put off eating them for a good few years after smelling some at a Chinese buffet. The scent of these poor neglected mussels was the smell of food poisoning and I knew to keep my distance. It wasn’t until I did a French cooking class last year where I didn’t want to look like an inexperienced cook that I just knuckled down and ate them and realised how delicious they are. Sometimes thats the key to trying intimidating new things – don’t hesitate, pretend you’ve eaten them loads and then see what happens. Just don’t do this at a buffet, that is not the time for experimenting! Anyway, if you’ve never had mussels, then moules mariniere is the best place to start. The mussels are cooked in a rich creamy sauce which is absolute heaven and the best thing you could ever dunk a baguette in. Seriously, try it and see. I think its the law in France that you must have some crusty bread to dunk into the sauce once you’ve polished off the mussels. When I first cooked this for the boyfriend I was convinced that he’d hate it, but he also loves it so I know I’m onto a winner with this recipe. Preparing the mussels for cooking can be a little bit fiddly as you have to debeard them (which is just pulling off the ropey material they use to cling on to rocks) and then check if any open mussels are dead. I have to admit this freaks me out a little bit as if they are open you tap them and if they are good to eat they close their shell, which means you’re cooking something which essentially is still alive when you put it in the pan. Its worth it though as they taste amazing, so please don’t let this put you off. I was told by the chef that taught me that many restaurants don’t bother checking if the mussels are good to eat or not as its very time consuming in a professional kitchen, hence why so many people get ill after eating shellfish in restaurants. So be careful.
For our main I cooked Chilli chicken with basil and coconut cream from Cooking Class Thai by Australian Womans Weekly. Havn’t cooked from this cookbook much at all, but this recipe was really successful so I’ll definitely be using it again once this challenge is over. It was very simple and quick to cook using only a few ingredients, and best of all it tasted like something you would order in a Thai restaurant. It was very coconutty but the herbs and chilli kept it from veering into a bland dish. The recipe called for a lot of fish sauce, which I was a little worried about as it is such a pungent ingredient with a really strong taste (its made from fermented anchovies), but I stuck with it and it really worked. Both myself and boyfriend enjoyed the dish, although it was very rich and he couldn’t finish it all. I’m clearly made of tougher stuff. Next time I would probably cook it as part of a Thai feast with several other dishes to balance out the richness, and wouldn’t serve it just after a rich French starter.
All in all, a great Friday night in with some delicious food. Bring on the weekend!
Moules Mariniere (serves 2-4, depending on appetite)
750gm – 1kg live mussels
2 banana/echallion shallots (finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
150ml white wine
150ml double cream
Handful chopped parsley
- Debeard the mussels and check that your mussels are alive. Any that don’t close when tapped or with broken shells, bin.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the shallots and garlic. Once softened, add the wine, bring to a boil then turn the heat down.
- Gently tip the mussels into the pan, then put the lid on the saucepan and cook for 4 or 5 minutes.
- Once all the mussels are open and cooked, add the cream and gently shake the pan to coat in the sauce. Any that are still closed, throw away. Sprinkle over the parsley.
- Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side. Heaven.