Mussels are such unassuming molluscs when at first you look at them. When you spend a bit more time exploring what you can do with them, you’ll be amazed at the different flavours and combinations you can create. Bringing home mussels is like bringing home a blank canvas.
And a blank canvas, reminds me of new beginnings and inspirations. We’re sometimes so focused on what we believe to be the important things in life, whether it be achievements or something new. While there is something happening silently in the background that is destined to be the real new beginning. How can you walk the road of life and not miss something that crosses your path? It is all about becoming emotionally in tune with everything that comes across your path. Never assume that any experience is merely there, but consider the possibility that there is a reason for it. You don’t necessarily have to know what the reason is, as you will eventually realise the truth. I guess it’s all about the fact that you should never take anything that happens to you for granted. Above all, it might just mean that you have to take a jump. Life is simply too short to forever wonder, what if? And this goes for everything in life.
So let’s say cheers to life and the blank canvas you wake up to every day. Every day is an opportunity to fill that canvas, so why not do it with passion and vigour and don’t be scared. Everything can be fixed, but you can’t re-create an opportunity that passed you by. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So grab each day and the opportunities it offers you.
I rarely give myself the luxury of taking time with my recipes, by simply trying and exploring. After all is there not always a deadline? However, when working on these, I took my time and explored these molluscs, the result: new respect
Smoked mussels have always been my favourite, since I was a child. And with smoked, I literally mean the ones that come in a can and you can pop on a cracker for a snack. With this recipe I wanted to reproduce the smoked flavour, but with a bit more of a contemporary twist.
Mussels in smoked tomato cream
Serves 3 as a starter
Smoking the tomatoes on the stove top
Halve good quality tomatoes and neatly cut out the stem.
Line a pot or roasting tin with some foil.
Sprinkle some oak shavings on the foil.
Place a steamer basket or trivet inside the pot.
Place the tomatoes on the basket or trivet.
Over a medium to low heat, start heating the pot, you’ll see the smoke starting.
Close the lid of the pot and you can also seal the sides of the pot with some foil. If you’re using a roasting tin, simply close tightly with foil.
I like to smoke it over a low to medium heat. If you do that, you can smoke it for around 15 minutes. Open and check the tomatoes to make sure it’s been smoked sufficiently. If you’re happy, close the lid again and switch off the heat. Let the tomatoes stand for another 5 minutes.
Remove them and let them cool down.
After the tomatoes have cooled, remove the skins and chop roughly.
Add them to a blender
Making the tomato cream
Olive oil to sauté
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
5 ml sugar
120 ml fresh cream
Sauté the onion over a medium heat, then add the garlic and cook until everything is soft.
Add this to the tomatoes in the blender, with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Blend, until it’s completely smooth.
Pass the sauce through a sieve so you are left with a clean sauce.
Add this sauce to a saucepan and let it reduce until it’s approximately 50% reduced.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding the sugar at this stage.
Add the cream and let it heat through. Don’t boil the sauce after you’ve added the cream.
To make the mussels
25 half shell mussels
125 ml white wine
45 ml butter
Pinch of salt
Simply heat the wine and butter in a saucepan add the mussels and toss it a bit.
Close the lid and let it steam for 5 minutes or until done.
To assemble, dish up the sauce and top with the mussels.
If you want, you can serve it with some nice toasted slices of bread.
The next recipe is one of my simple recipes, but it feels luxurious and gives you the feeling of the sea and fresh salty air.
Mussel, lime and pomegranate ceviche
Serves 4 as a starter
Meat of 16 mussels
Juice of 2 limes
2.5 ml salt
250 ml (1 cup) pomegranate seeds
(A tip to remove the seeds from a whole pomegranate, cut the fruit, hold the cut section in your hand over a bowl. Now use a spoon and simply bang it on the skin and the seeds will pop out.)
Handful fresh dill, for serving (optional)
Finely slice the mussel meat and place in a non-reactive bowl.
Add the lime juice, salt and pomegranate seeds to the bowl and mix well.
Let it stand for at least 2 hours, so the lime juice can ‘cook’ the mussels.
Serve it with some sprigs of fresh dill.
The last recipe is inspired by the traditional Moules Mariniere, especially serving it with the thick cut chips. But instead of the wine, I used beer in this recipe and it gives it a nice robust flavour.
Mussels in beer with thick cut chips
Serves 4 as a starter
Thick cut chips
3 potatoes, nicely cut into thick batons (spend some time to make it look good)
Cooking oil for frying the chips
Heat the cooking oil until hot.
Poach the chips in the oil in batches. Remove and let the chips cool down completely.
Heat the oil again and fry the chips in the heated oil. This will ensure that the chips are nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Fry the chips in batches, otherwise your oil’s heat will drop too quickly.
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely diced (spend some time and make it look good)
2 celery leaves, chiffonade them
45 ml butter
170 ml good beer (½ bottle)
500 g half shell mussels
Pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients, except the mussels in a large pot.
Bring to the boil and add the mussels.
Close the pot and let the mussels steam for around 5 minutes or until done. Don’t overcook them, as they will become chewy.
Serve the mussels in a bowl, with the cooking liquid and serve the chips on the side.