Moules mariniÿre

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Generally you can get mussels most of the year round, although - as with oysters - when the water is warm, they get broody and will not be at their best, and certain fisheries will not harvest them in order to give them a chance to breed. If they've already been cleaned and scrubbed simply pull out the cotton-like beards then rinse in cold water. Discard any that are open and don't close when you handle them - they're probably dead.

Generally you can get mussels most of the year round, although - as with oysters - when the water is warm, they get broody and will not be at their best, and certain fisheries will not harvest them in order to give them a chance to breed. If they've already been cleaned and scrubbed simply pull out the cotton-like beards then rinse in cold water. Discard any that are open and don't close when you handle them - they're probably dead.

This recipe is the simplest and quickest way to enjoy mussels, but another option is to serve them mixed with cockles and/or clams. Or you can follow this recipe using just clams, cockles and/or razor clams. You can add cream to a classic moules marinière to give them a luxurious finish, or you can imbue your mussels with flavours from around the world, as, for example, in the steamed Catalan mussels variation below or by adding Thai spices and finishing the dish with coconut milk.

I first encountered the Catalan version on the Costa Brava, near St Feliu de Guixols. Most of the restaurants in the area served a version of it and each one was slightly different in its flavourings. The best one I tried certainly had a distinct North African influence, containing ginger and cumin. I like the way that spices cross over in so many countries, especially when you are not expecting it.

4-6 large shallots, finely chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 glass of white wine
150ml fish stock, click here for fish stock recipe (or a quarter of a good-quality fish stock cube dissolved in 150ml hot water)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2kg mussels, scrubbed and debearded, discarding any that stay open when tapped
2tbsp chopped parsley

Put the shallots, garlic, white wine and fish stock into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper, and add the mussels and parsley. Cover with a lid and cook on a high heat, stirring occasionally, until all the mussels have opened for roughly 3-4 minutes (one or two may not, but don't keep cooking just for them; simply discard the closed ones). Serve immediately.

For the steamed Catalan mussels variation, replace the shallots with a small onion, chopped, and cook that and the garlic in 4 tablespoons olive oil with 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger and 1 teaspoon each crushed fennel seeds and ground cumin, until softened. Add a good pinch of saffron strands, a tablespoon of tomato purée, 150g canned, chopped tomatoes with their liquid, the white wine and 1 litre of stock. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then season to taste. Add the mussels and parsley. Cover and cook as above.

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