HEADING on the Eurostar to Bruges I could only think of one thing for dinner tonight. A big bowl of juicy black mussels and frites. Not that we all need to jump on the next Eurostar train out of London to sample such European delights. The UK has some of the best and tastiest mussels on this side of the globe. Scottish rope grown mussels are highly prized in the restaurants of London and you’ll do a lot worse than serve these tasty suckers up in your kitchen.
When I think of cooking mussels at home I call friends over to join, as it is so simple to grab a large pot and the basic ingredients to complete and they make for a great sharing dish. Why would such a dish suit us Aussies over here? Well, beer – Belgian’s are famous for their amber brew – and mussels are a perfect match.
Good quality mussels can be found in the fish section of the large supermarkets, normally live and in mesh bags to keep them fresh and easy to handle.
When buying your mussels check for any cracks in the shells and discard them if you find any. There should also be the tell-tale sign of the fresh sea aroma as with all seafood. Check also for the shellfish authority tag which will tell you when the mussels were harvested and packaged.
When cooking mussels an important tip to remember is to throw out any mussels which have not opened when cooked. Usually means they are at the end of their shell(f) life (…sorry, couldn’t resist).
Simple is best when it comes to mussels. Having a good helping of fresh garlic, onion, tomato, white wine and fresh basil are the perfect match. So simple and so perfect, most countries throughout Europe use the same ingredients for this gem of the ocean.
So I am going to get back to my lazy long weekend in Bruges and leave you with my classic mussel and tomato chili broth to tuck into. Oh and don’t forget a few cold pints of Belgium beer.
Mussels and tomato chili broth
What you need:
1 kg of fresh live black mussels
½ cup of light olive oil
4 cloves of freshly chopped garlic
1 small onion sliced finely
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 sprigs of fresh basil
2 small freshly chopped chilies (or more if you dare!)
½ bottle of good quality dry white wine
2 tsp of white sugar
What to do:
Take a large saucepan with a lid and add a ½ cup of light olive oil on a medium heat.
When the oil is hot but not smoking add the mussels and garlic, chili, onion and stir.
Add the white wine and close with the lid and cook for three minutes.
Remove the lid and add the tomatoes and sugar. Allow the broth to cook for ten minutes. Reduce the heat and cook for five more minutes.
Add the basil and salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop out the mussels into large bowls and serve with freshly grilled ciabatta. Enjoy.