Show some mussel
PUBLISHED: 05:20 23 February 2015
Make the most of our marvellous Norfolk mussels says Mary Kemp, our award-winning food writer from East Harling.
One of my favourite winter comfort foods is a bowl of Norfolk mussels cooked in wine, a dash of Pernod, leeks and a dash of cream, with a bowl of piping hot French fries. Not a difficult recipe, but cooking mussels can strike fear and doubt into some of the most competent cooks.
In a month in which root vegetables and mussels are readily available I have made chowder. This is a wonderful “one-pot meal” which just needs a loaf of crusty bread and perhaps a nice cold bottle of dry white wine served with it.
Mussel and smoked haddock chowder
1kg fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
500ml dry white wine
200g smoked streaky lardons or small strips
2 leeks, finely sliced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks
1 large fennel bulb - trimmed, quartered and finely sliced
150ml double cream
450g undyed smoked haddock, skinless and chopped into 2cm pieces
18 raw peeled king prawns
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Wash the mussels in plenty of water. Discard any that are open and won’t close when lightly tapped or squeezed. Pull out any tough fibrous beards and knock off any barnacles with a small sharp knife. Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any bits of shell.
2 Pour the wine into a heavy-based, lidded saucepan or sauté pan and bring to the boil. Add the mussels and cover with the lid, cooking for three to four minutes or until the mussels are open, discarding any that stay closed. Drain immediately and reserve the cooking liquor, then leave the mussels to cool.
3 Wipe out the pan, melt the butter and fry the bacon until golden brown, then add the vegetables and water. Cover the pan with the lid and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
4 Remove three-quarters of the mussels from their shells. Strain the mussel liquor through a fine sieve lined with a piece of kitchen roll, then add to the vegetables and bacon. Continue to simmer until the potatoes are cooked.
5 Pour the cream into the pan, add the prawns and smoked haddock pieces and poach for four minutes. Taste and season; if the chowder becomes too thick at this point add a little extra water. Finally add the mussels to the pan, toss in the herbs and squeeze over the lemon juice. Serve immediately.
We often forget force rhubarb is in season during the winter months. It can be beautifully pink and has a delicate sweet flavour. Rhubarb cordial is lovely served simply with fizzy water, and is also delicious when a little is added to fizzy wine or champagne. This recipe makes a good 1.5l of cordial.
2kg rhubarb stems, washed and roughly chopped
2 large oranges
1.2kg granulated sugar
2 teaspoons citric acid (optional)
1 Put the rhubarb into a large pan and add 1.5l of cold water.
2 Using a potato peeler or sharp vegetable knife, take four strips of orange skin from each fruit and add this to the pan with the juice.
3 Bring the rhubarb to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently until soft and well cooked. Take off the heat and cool for an hour or so.
4 Pour the rhubarb and juice through a fine sieve or large jelly bag (hanging over a bowl) and allow the juice to drip through overnight. Don’t be tempted to press the juice through as this may make the cordial cloudy. The rhubarb pulp can be frozen at this point and cooked with a crumble topping.
5 Pour the juice into a pan and, on a low heat, add the sugar a little at a time, stirring and tasting as it dissolves - you may not need all the sugar. Add two teaspoons of citric acid if you want to store this for several months, but this is not necessary if the cordial is going to be used straight away - if you don’t add citric acid, use within a week.
6 Allow to cool and pour into sterilized bottles and store in the fridge or in a cold larder.