Creamed mussels with fenugreek and crisp garlic bread

Main course: Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

The following tasty number is a variation on my dad's famous "twiddled prawns"; I just hope that he approves of this recent adaptation. Knowing him, however, he most probably won't.

Note: the kneaded butter (beurre-manié) used in this recipe is a very useful thing to have around; stored in a sealed pot in the fridge, it will keep for some weeks. Simply mix together equal quantities of soft butter and flour to a paste. This mixture, finally, is nothing more than an un-cooked roux.

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
50g butter
2tbsp tinned, chopped tomatoes
1tbsp white wine vinegar
100ml dry white wine
1 kilo mussels
2-3tsp kneaded butter (beurre-manié)
1dsp dried fenugreek leaves (available from Indian food stores)
150ml double cream
freshly ground white pepper
4 thick slices of baguette, spread with garlic butter.

Using a roomy, lidded pot, fry the onions and garlic in the butter until pale golden and then stir in the tomatoes. Add the vinegar and boil the contents of the pan until reduced to a thick paste. Pour in the wine, allow it to bubble for a couple of minutes and then tip in the mussels. Cover the pot and leave the mussels to steam for a few minutes, then shake the topmost layer to the bottom, so revealing those from beneath (already opened) on the surface. Replace the lid and cook for a few minutes longer.

Once all the mussels are clearly open, tip them into a colander - suspended over another pan or bowl - and leave there for five minutes, so allowing their cooking liquor to fully drain. Strain the result through a fine sieve into a medium-sized saucepan. Shell the mussels into a bowl (discard shells) and put to one side.

Now add the kneaded butter to the strained mussel juices, whisking as you go. Add the fenugreek leaves now, and leave the sauce to simmer and thicken for a good five minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer until the mixture is of a coating consistency. Check for seasoning. Pass once more through a fine sieve; if, at this stage, you wish for a smoother consistency, give the sauce a whiz in the liquidiser. Re-heat the reserved mussels in the sauce and spoon each serving over a crisp slice of garlic bread.