Moules Marinières (from Delicious Magazine, 2008)

Shellfish are terrifying underwater aliens, real-life non-mythical kraken; I am expecting an impossibly large being to crawl out of them and kill me with a T-1000 Terminator-type liquid metal sword arm.  So the prospect of checking, cleaning and cooking these cold-blooded killers-in-waiting presented me with a heart-pounding challenge.  Quite frankly, just holding one of these things made my flesh crawl.  Tapping the open ones on the counter to see if they closed up (thereby proving they are alive and edible) made me nauseous.  I like eating things that were once alive.  I’m not as keen on killing them to death myself.  Especially if their successors might potentially come after me, hell-bent on revenge, with their metal sword arms.

Mussels might be just 100 years or something of evolution away from becoming this. But I’ll be dead by then so HA! the joke’s on you, mussels.

I watched this helpful video from the BBC on how to clean and de-beard mussels and look out for the ones to throw away.  If you haven’t cooked mussels before, this is a must-watch.  So lots of tapping, scraping, beard-pulling (this is starting to sound fetishistic) and binning later, I was ready to cook them.

I decided to make moules marinières as a fitting accompaniment to the final France match of the 6 Nations rugby tournament, cheering them on to avoid a dismal 5 defeats out of 5.  I used a fantastic healthy recipe from Delicious Magazine again.  Mussels are low in calories, and the recipe uses half-fat crème fraîche instead of cream.  And oh my, it was sumptuous, tasting rich even though it was light.  We mopped up every last drop of sauce with fresh baguette and if only I had more mussels I would have made more and eaten it twice.  I am converted and will definitely make again: next time I might not even need the impossibly convenient steelworks and vat of molten metal on stand-by.

Need This (for 4):

1.75kg mussels / 25g butter / 4 shallots / 1 garlic clove / 50ml dry white wine / 100ml half fat crème fraîche / 2 tbsp tarragon / salt & pepper

Do This:

Wash mussels under running cold water, wash off mud by gently rolling mussels together in hands / tap open mussels – bin them if they stay open / de-beard, scrape off white-grey barnacles / melt butter in large pan on low heat / fry off garlic & shallot until soft / turn up heat / add wine & mussels / cover & cook for 3-4 mins / remove mussels using slotted spoon to leave behind liquid and plate up / bin any that are still closed / boil liquid uncovered & reduce / add crème fraîche, tarragon, seasoning / pour over mussels & serve


Not so scary now… unless lying in wait for their last attempts at revenge: allergy and food poisoning.