Mussels are one of my all time favourite foods, they smell like a fresh sea breeze - full of ozone and crispness, just the smell of them as they tumble out of the net into the sink gets me dancing with expectant glee. They are really cheap, 500g costs about £1.50 and they take just a few minutes to cook, hardly any effort for maximum reward, my kind of food indeed.
I prefer pear to apple cider for my mussels but go ahead and use apple cider or white wine if you prefer and likewise throw in whatever herbs take your fancy, I just picked bits from the pots in the garden and chucked them in, although this tasted so kickass I'm going to stick with this version for a while I reckon.
Smoky Mussels in Pear Cider (serves 1 as a main or 2 as a starter)
You will need:
- 500g live mussels
- 50g unsalted butter
- 2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves smoked garlic, sliced
- 200ml pear cider
- 50ml double cream
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs tarragon, leaves removed from stem and chopped
- Optional garnishes: fennel fronds, chive flowers, violas
- Crusty bread to serve
- Prepare your mussels by giving them a wash and removing any straggly beardy bits or barnacles. Discard any that do not close when tapped gently or are damaged. I like to give mine a good rinse again once I've done this then set them to one side.
- Take a large saucepan and add the butter and bacon and cook gently for 2 minutes to render the bacon fat then add the onion and garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes until the bacon is cooked and the onion softened (you don't want anything to brown).
- Add the cider and bring to the boil (drink the rest as a cook's perk) then tip in your mussels, cover with a tight fitting lid and let them cook for about 3 -4 minutes or until they have opened.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the mussels, pop them in a bowl (get rid of any that haven't opened) and cover them with tin foil.
- Cook the cider for another 2 minutes then add the cream and tarragon, return to the boil, season with pepper and add any juices from the bowl of cooked mussels.
- Put the mussels in a big bowl, pour over the cider sauce and sprinkle over any garnishes you are using before diving in with chunks of crusty bread.