It’s mussels this week and I’m going to talk to you about the process of getting the best out of them.
I will be serving them in a lovely white wine, garlic, chilli, basil and cream sauce.
It’s always beneficial to get the mussel from a good fish market and at the restaurant we like to use Johnson’s Enterprises in Old Portsmouth. After you’ve chosen how many you want, you need to get home to start prepping them.
The first thing to look for is if they are alive or not. To do this you simply tap them lightly on a hard surface and if the mussel closes or stays closed this means they are alive and good for consumption.
If they are dead or dying the shells could be cracked and they won’t respond when tapped.
After making sure all the mussels are good, you need to debeard them. Take a small sharp knife and scrape off the stringy part sticking out of the mussel. This is a ligament they use to cling or attach themselves to something.
If they have any barnacles on them they too can be scraped off with your knife.
Once these processes are complete you should be left with a nice pile of clean and alive mussels.
Once they are all cooked they should open completely. If they don’t, then throw them away too.
Mussels used to be seasonal, although you can now get them all year round, but they are particularly great to eat at this time of year as they suit light, summery dishes. Bon appetit.
· Kevin Bingham is the chef patron of Restaurant 27 in Southsea. Call (023) 9287 6272.
Chilli mussels with spaghetti and basil (Serves 4)
Two saucepans with a lid
300g dried spaghetti pasta
1kg fresh mussels, treated and cleaned as explained in the article
One small clove garlic, crushed
Two shallots, peeled and finely chopped
Half of a finely-chopped red chilli
Handful of fresh basil
Half a glass of white wine
A quarter of a pint of whipping cream
Bring a saucepan three- quarters full with water to the boil.
Put the spaghetti in saucepan, bring back to boil and stir. Turn off the gas and cover with a lid.
Leave for 10 minutes and have your colander at the ready.
Meanwhile, place your second saucepan over the heat and add a glug of olive oil.
Stir in the garlic, shallots and chilli taking care not to burn.
When they are golden brown add the wine (take care as it may spit when it meets the oil).
Immediately place the mussels on top and cover. Cook for approximately two to three minutes or until all mussels are open.
Remove from the heat and strain the mussels.
Save all the cooking liquor and add the cream to it. Reduce this by half or until the liquor coats the back of a spoon.
Pour the mussels back in and coat with the sauce. Afterwards, strain the pasta as hopefully 10 minutes would have passed by now.
In a serving bowl place the pasta at the bottom and spoon the mussels over the top.
Finish with some fresh basil.