I have eaten a lot of mussels in my time. As kids we spent most of our summer holidays in France so my summer diet consisted of baguette, butter, mussels, brie, rillettes, pate, sausison, and cornichons (I love that word, it makes me smile far more than gherkin. Which is odd as I love a gherkin on my burger) Oh and a lentil soup, that looked all grey and murkey (a bit like dirty washing up water) but tasted amazing! (Did I sell you on that one? 😉 ) Oh and Carambars, which my sister and I loved, although they could stick your teeth together for quite a few hours 🙂
That all sounds very grand doesn't it!!!! But I should tell you that:
A) I grew up in the UK, so France was an easy holiday destination,
B) My parents used to tow our caravan and drive there.
Don't get me wrong I loved it. I have great memories from those holidays. We spent our days at the beach or around the pool, played cards in the evenings. We even got a small glass of watered down wine with our meal (My sister and I thought we were grown ups then!!!) Incidentally in France you take your 2 litre water bottle to the shop and they fill it up with wine from a sort of hose pipe like contraption! We went all over France. I can remember one year my Dad driving us to the Pyrenees. I listened to 'New Kids on the Block' the whole way there!!! I know! Should I even admit that??? I can remember a year when I read Judy Bloom's book 'Tiger Eyes' about 5 times, and refusing to let my little sister even look at it. Oh and one year, my cousin came with us (that might have been the Pyrenees too) and we got lost on a walk. Properly lost, scarily lost. Man we got into trouble we finally got back to the camp-site!
Now I have totally left topic, I am somewhere off Diversion Avenue, think I took a left onto Tangent Boulevard!
So back to mussels. Yum.
Actually I am going back to France as I remember why I started down my French journey.....
Once I had left home, I still holidayed in France. And my greatest mussel meal ever came in Langres. We were staying just outside and one day we went in to find there was a mussel festival. Live music and so many mussels, cooked so many ways; traditional Mariniere, or with a cider and bacon sauce, a garlic heavy tomato sauce, a rich blue cheese sauce and a mussel gratin with leeks and comté. It was heaven! Mussels, beer and live French music......It was a great night. Although after a few beers I started to struggle to understand the strong regional accent so I became one of those people who nods and smiles during conversations and hopes it is appropriate 😳
I love moulé mariniere. I can easily sit and eat my body weight in the creamy garlic mussels and baguette. And there in lies the problem. The body weight of bread! Now I am not on a no carb or even low carb path. I love me a bit of belly filling carb action. It is a happy place to be. (must say sorry here to my friend Jill. Sorry Jilly, I am a paleo failure). Bread. Yum! But there are occasions when I think okay, I am going to ease off the carb loving just for a few days, until my jeans don't feel quite so tight. Please don't let this put you off this recipe! It isn't a diet recipe. It is just a bread free recipe. As bread dipped into creamy garlic broth feels oh so right. Bread dipped into a spicy thai style broth doesn't. And so you avoid the bread issue. .
I have been making this for at least 8 years and whilst writing the paragraph above it occurred to me that you could probably replace the baguette with a steamer of salapao (the Thai equivalent of the Chinese steamed bun) So there goes my whole bread argument! But that just means I will have to make this dish again to test my theory.
- 1.5kg live mussels
- 500ml stock (I have fish bouillon powder so use that made up per the instructions but regular vegetable stock will be fine)
- 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 red chillies
- 1 stick of lemon grass
- 1 teaspoon of grated ginger (About a thumb sized piece)
- Large handful of coriander leaves
- Fill the sink with plenty of cold water and empty your mussels into the sink.
- In your largest saucepan, add the stock and fish sauce.
- Crush or grate your garlic into the stock.
- Finely slice the chillies and add to your stock.
- Remove the dry outer layer of your lemon grass and bash the inside to help release the flavour. I use my meat hammer. But you can use the back of a knife. Add the bruised lemon grass to your stock.
- Add the ginger to the stock and then bring the stock to a very gently simmer.
- Sort through your mussels. You want to discard any that have broken shells or that remain open when you hit them on the side of the sink. If your mussels still have the beards attached give them a sharp tug to remove.
- Turn the heat up on your stock and once it is at a rapid boil, add your mussels and clamp on the lid.
- Give the pan a wiggle and leave for 2 minutes.
- Give it another wiggle and leave for a further 2 minutes.
- Serve in large bowls sprinkled with the fresh coriander.
For a richer version add 400 ml of coconut milk and only 100 ml of stock. The richer sweet coconut can stand more heat so if you like it spicy add an extra chilli to the list as well.