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Mussels - Annie Stirk's recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:36 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:48 20 February 2013

Ingredients for Moules A L'Orange

Ingredients for Moules A L'Orange

There's nothing simpler than serving fresh mussels at home. Just follow the advice of our food and wine consultant Annie Stirk PHOTOGRAPHS BY JUSTIN SLEE

A bowl of steaming, fragrant mussels delivered to your restaurant table can be a real head turning experience, with their distinctive shiny blue-black shells, enticingly gaping open to reveal their plump and juicy orange flesh.

Cooking up a pot of mussels at home couldn't be simpler though - it's fresh, fast, tasty food at its very best, perfect for an informal lunch or supper. There's no need to worry about cutlery either, just dive in and eat straight from the shells.

The brasserie classic, Moules Frites, is eaten widely in France and Belgium, washed down with a glass of chilled local beer. And what seafood lover wouldn't enjoy dipping those tasty frites into thick, glossy, wobbly mayonnaise, and mopping up the aromatic juices with hunks of crusty bread.

As for sustainability, mussel farming ticks all the right boxes, with the Marine Conservation Society giving it a big thumbs up for its environmental methods and policies. Most mussels are farmed in the cold clear waters of the sheltered bays and inlets all around the UK coastline.

They are grown on ropes suspended from rafts, and take about two to three years to develop before they are harvested. Mussels are filter feeders - filtering about 65 litres of sea water each day to access the nutrient rich plankton, which they need to grow. This is why mussels should never be gathered in the wild, as the water they feed from may have been contaminated.

Mussels contain a powerhouse of nutritional benefits too. They are low in fat and sodium, and high in Vitamin B12 and that important Omega 3. The minerals iron, potassium, selenium and zinc are also found in mussels - these are important for male libido and fertility, which probably accounts for their reputation as aphrodisiacs. So, why don't you catch this seasonal shellfish treat while you can with this month's delicious recipes - easy to cook and fun to eat. Enjoy!

MOULES A L'ORANGE

Serves 4

Ingredients

1kg mussels (de-bearded and cleaned)

Olive oil

50g unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large onion, diced

2 sticks of celery, finely sliced

150ml white wine or use beer

Zest & juice of 2 oranges

25ml Cointreau (optional)

150ml double cream

Bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Method

Clean and check the mussels, removing any beards and barnacles. It is really important to discard any mussels which are open before you cook them. To double check, give them a tap or a squeeze. If they close tightly they are OK, if not, throw them away.

Put a large deep roomy pan on the heat.

Add the oil and butter, followed by the garlic, onion and celery.

Soften for 3-4 minutes.

Next add the white wine followed by the zest and juice of the oranges.

Add the Cointreau if using.

Stir well and tip in the mussels. Put a lid on the pan and let the mussels steam for approx. 4-6 minutes. Stir once and give the pan an occasional shake to ensure that all the mussels open. If any mussels remain closed after cooking, remove them from the pan and discard.

Give the mussels a final stir, pour in the cream and ladle the mussels into deep bowls.

Strain the sauce over the mussels. Serve as they do in Belgium with a bowl of frites and some creamy mayonnaise, and garnish the mussels with plenty of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley.

THAI STYLE MUSSELS

Serves 4

Ingredients

1kg mussels (de-bearded and cleaned)

Olive oil

2 stalks of lemon grass, finely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced - use both the green and white parts

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2-3 red chillies, deseeded and diced (you can reserve a few slices for garnish)

Splash Thai fish sauce

150ml white wine

150ml coconut milk

Bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Method

Clean and check the mussels, removing any beards and barnacles. It is really important to discard any mussels which are open before you cook them. To double check, give them a tap or a squeeze. If they close tightly they are OK, if not, throw them away.

Put a large deep roomy pan on the heat. Add the oil, followed by the garlic, chillies, lemon grass, spring onion and onion.

Soften for 3-4 minutes. Next add the Thai fish sauce, followed by the white wine.

Stir well and tip in the mussels.

Put a lid on the pan and let the mussels steam for approx. 4-6 minutes. Stir once and give the pan an occasional shake to ensure that all the mussels open. If any mussels remain closed after cooking, remove them from the pan and discard.

Give the mussels a final stir and add the coconut milk, stirring well. Ladle the spicy mussels into deep bowls.

Strain the sauce over the mussels.

Serve with crusty bread and garnish with plenty of roughly chopped coriander and a few strips of finely sliced chilli for colour.

MUSSELS WITH PESTO

This is a great starter, especially if you can get some nice fat juicy mussels - allow approximately 8-10 per person - but hey, who's counting! Feel free to have a go at making your own pesto, using basil or flat leaf parsley, but don't feel too guilty about buying fresh ready-made pesto from your local deli. As an alternative, garlic works really well with mussels, so try a knob of garlic butter on each one before grilling.

Ingredients

Mussels (approximately 8-10 per person)

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, chopped

150ml white wine

4 tbsp fresh pesto

2 tbsp wholemeal breadcrumbs

Handful of torn basil leaves

Method

Clean and check the mussels, removing any beards and barnacles.

It is really important to discard any mussels which are open before you cook them.

To double check, give them a tap or a squeeze. If they close tightly they are OK, if not, throw them away.

Put a pan on the heat. Add the oil, followed by the garlic and onion.

Soften for 3-4 minutes. Next add the white wine, stir well and tip in the mussels.

Put a lid on the pan and let the mussels steam for approx. 4-6 minutes.

Stir once and give the pan an occasional shake to ensure that all the mussels open.

If any mussels remain closed after cooking, remove them from the pan and discard.

Cool the mussels briefly to make them easier to handle.

Carefully twist off the empty half shell of each mussel and discard.

Place the shells containing the cooked mussels in an ovenproof dish.

Place a teaspoonful of pesto on each mussel, and then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and place under a medium grill for 2-3 minutes.

Garnish with torn basil leaves and serve with crusty bread.



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