This weekend we went to visit our wonderful friends Bi and Celine in Brussels. They were excellent hosts, tour guides and a whole lot of fun. They took us to all the great local places to eat and also to some very posh chocolate shops… but more on that in a few days. In fact, this whole week is dedicated to showing you the delights of the city of Brussels! Enjoy.
On Saturday, we took a drive to the lovely Belgian city of Gent; about half an hour from the Brussels city centre. The mussels above were actually eaten in Gent, but ‘Mussels in Gent’ doesn’t really have the same ring to it, don’t you agree? We walked around for ages trying to find the perfect place to eat, but then finally settled on a restaurant that looked a bit shabby from the outside but was fine dining inside – a very welcome surprise.
I had the mussels maison with frites (chips). Maison is a delicious sauce made of white wine and cream with big chunks of carrot, garlic and celery. As you can see there was a lot of mussels there – 1 kg to be exact – and sadly I couldn’t finish them all. I love the way they arrive in a big pot with a lid to keep them pipping hot and then as you eat the mussels you toss the shells into the lid. This makes it a much neater affair than eating most other shellfish such as lobster and prawns and gives the distinct advantage of being able to use the shells to scoop up the rich creamy sauce. Yum.
I really wanted to eat great mussels when I went to Belgium and luckily I did. But it wasn’t all savoury food, there were plenty of sweet treats too. Come back again soon to check them out.
Happy eating, Christie
Mussels with tarragon and cream by Nigel Slater
click here for the original recipe and article
500g cleaned mussels
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 thick slice of butter
a handful of tarragon sprigs
a few sprigs of thyme
Pernod or Ricard
2 or 3 tbsps double cream
Give the mussels the once over (they should be free of grit and sand and there should be no broken shells). Discard any that do not shut when you tap them firmly on the edge of the sink.
Cook the shallot and garlic in the butter in a deep pan (one for which you can find a lid). When the shallots are soft but barely coloured, tear the leaves off the tarragon and add most of them to the onion. Chuck in the thyme, too. Add the mussels and cover tightly with a lid.
Let the mussels steam for 3 minutes, shaking the pot from time to time, until they open. There may be a few that refuse to budge – throw them away. Scoop out the mussels with a slotted slice or spoon into a warm bowl. Tip the cooking liquor through a fine sieve into a bowl.
Rinse out the pan (be quick: the mussels are getting cold) then return the pan to the heat. Pour in the strained cooking liquor, a couple of glugs or tablespoons of Pernod, then pour in the cream and throw in the rest of the tarragon leaves. Let the sauce bubble for a minute or so, then tip over the mussels.