Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Mussels from Brussels - Asian Style!

I ADORE mussels (the national dish of Belgium - together with glorious twice-fried frites of course) because they are sweet, tender and succulent and also because they are the ultimate fast food (they can be served from pot to table in under five minutes) and - if cooked at home - they are completely affordable (I always buy them when they are on offer (vacuum-packed in 2 kg packs) and under six Euros (£ 4.85) - this will feed two as a main course or four as a starter.) I do have to say though that I hardly ever order them in restaurants or bistros here because they are so OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE (€20 is the norm - and that's for 500/600g)! But that's just my parsimonious nature...

Yesterday evening's moules supper was just a very simple mariniere (recipe below), but my favourite way of serving them is as a sort-of-Asian-style-dish - it makes a really fresh, fragrant and unusual change:

Asian-style mussels
2kg of mussels
1 tbs of vegetable oil
a bunch of spring onions
a knob of ginger (peeled)
a couple of garlic cloves
1 fat or 2 small stalks of lemon grass
a bit of fresh red chili (depending on how hot you like it)
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbs (or more) of fish sauce
a cup or so of coconut milk/cream
1/4 ts or so of saffron (if youre feeling luxurious - powdered is fine) or 1 ts of tumeric
a handful of chopped coriander

1 Rinse the mussels in a colander under cold water (that is usually ALL you need to do with them - they will be farmed and usually do not have any "beards" that need pulling off). Discard any obviously broken ones.
2 Chop all the ingredients (in a food processor).
3 Sweat them in the oil in a large pot until soft.
4 Add the mussels, lime juice, fish sauce, coconut milk and saffron/tumeric.
5 Put the lid on, give it all a shake and put it on a high heat.
6 Let it come up to the boil and let them bubble for ca 2 mins.
7 Take the lid off - they should by now be open. If not, give them another shake and look again after 1 minute or so.
8 Check for taste, adding more lime juice, fish sauce or even coconut milk if you want.
9 Ladle into big soup bowls - that's it!
10 When eating, discard any that are completely closed.

You can also stretch this into an elegant soup starter for six - just add enough fish stock (from a cube) at the last stage and give it all a good stir.
I always freeze any left-over lemon stalks - they just go a tiny bit soft when defrosted, but that makes them so much easier to chop!

Simple moules mariniere
Chop a large onion and a few garlic cloves and sweat them off in a bit of olive oil until soft. If you have, add: a chopped carrot, a bit of chopped leeks, a chopped celery stalk and/or a handful of flatleaf parsley. Add a glass of white wine (or cider) and season with black pepper (if you have, you can also add some cream). Then simply cook as above! And yesterday, my children's oven chips went rather well with them too...

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