Recipe: baked mussels two ways

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My love for seafood started at an early age with our family eating prawns every single Friday. I still love it, although it’s difficult to get hold of Atlantic prawns in London. But that means that every time I go back to Sweden I make sure to eat as much seafood as I possibly can.

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One evening this summer I made these baked mussels as a starter, and they went down a treat.

I had two different toppings but I would say they were both equally yummy. The green ones were inspired by Oysters Rockefeller and had spinach and cream in the filling and the white ones were just topped with homemade aioli.

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Baked mussels with aioli

2-3 large mussels per person

1 batch homemade aioli

Rinse the mussels a few times in a colander to remove sand. De-beard the mussels and rinse again. Discard of any mussels that won’t close their shell when tapping on it. Put the mussels in a pan of boiling water with a little salt. Put the lid on and cook for a minute or so or until the mussels have open. Drain in a colander. 

Open the mussels and discard the empty halves. Dollop aioli onto the mussels to they’re covered. Place in a oven-proof dish and bake until golden in 200C or under the grill, about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread. 

Baked mussels a’la Rockefeller

2-3 large mussels per person

1 shallots, finely chopped

1 tbsp butter

3 nests of frozen chopped spinach (or the equivalent of fresh spinach)

4 tbsp double cream

grated nutmeg

salt & white pepper

Rinse the mussels a few times in a colander to remove sand. De-beard the mussels and rinse again. Discard of any mussels that won’t close their shell when tapping on it. Put the mussels in a pan of boiling water with a little salt. Put the lid on and cook for a minute or so or until the mussels have open. Drain in a colander. 

Fry the shallots on medium heat in a small saucepan until translucent but not brown. Add the frozen spinach and let the water bubble away. Add the double cream and nutmeg and let the mixture reduce a little. Season well. 

Open the mussels and discard the empty halves. Spoon the spinach mixture into the shells and place in a oven-proof dish and bake until golden in 200C or under the grill, about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread. 

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Dinner at Rex & Mariano, Soho

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It’s a few weeks ago now, that Daisy, Rowena and I had a lovely dinner at the fairly new addition to the Soho restaurant scene; Rex and Mariano.

This is a seafood restaurant with great produce but very reasonable prices. And they still have oysters, tartares, ceviche, prawns, mussels and plenty of fish.

The interior goes with the less is more price-setting. It’s simple and scaled back but still nice.

After being seated at our table, we’re told we order everything on the table’s iPad. The software is very easy to use and you can order one or a few things at the time. The waiters’ job is from here on in just to bring the food to the table and answer any questions from the diners. Very efficient!

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Just like in many other restaurants, Rex & Mariano encourages sharing the dishes, which I also enjoy as it’s the best way to avoid food envy. Our first dish was burrata with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. It was nice but not the creamiest burrata I’ve ever had.

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We then had an oyster each, and they were really big and juicy. And delicious!

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After that we shared this seabass ceviche with coriander, yuzu and red onions.

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The grilled red prawns with lemon, olive oil and sea salt were amazing! So simple but great produce.

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Also the tuna tartare with avocado, chilli and lime was very nice.

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But my favourite that evening was the mussles. We had them as a main with fries and tenderstem broccoli, and what I liked about this dish apart from the mussels being top quality (they were big, sweet and juicy), I loved the sauce. It wasn’t the usually creamy Mariniere type sauce, instead it was a light buttery emulsion.

After all of this I was quite happily full, but the girls fancied a pudding and enjoyed a lovely chocolate mousse with pistachios. The pudding menu wasn’t large and they all seemed to be prepared ahead of time, but they were still very nice. But you can tell the focus here is on the fish and seafood.

Because of the efficient ordering process on the iPad the service charge is as little as five or six percent, which also contributes to the value for money track this restaurant is already on.

Rex & Mariano, 2 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0AZ

Mussels with sherry, saffron and cream

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I brought a bottle (of very cheap) fino sherry with me home from Mallorca, for cooking and I knew exactly what I wanted to use it for; mussels. I adore moules marinière but thought it would work well with more pungent sherry instead of wine too and for some reason I felt that saffron would work well together with the sherry.

Turns out I was right, and I really enjoyed this take on the classic moules marinière. When eating moules as often as I do, one needs variation.

As always when cooking mussels, do rinse them well and de-beard them before cooking. Also discard of any mussels that won’t close when tapping their shell before cooking. But no need to discard mussels that don’t open after cooking, they are still OK to eat.

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Mussels with sherry, saffron and cream, serves 2 (small portions)

500 g mussels

a knob of salted butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

75 ml fino sherry

1/2 -1 tsp ground saffron

200 ml double cream

chopped parsley

a small pinch of salt and ground white pepper

To serve:

nice bread to soak up the sauce with

Rinse the mussels a few times in a colander to remove sand. De-beard the mussels and rinse again. Discard of any mussels that won’t close their shell when tapping on it. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and fry on medium heat for a minute or two without browning. Add the sherry and let the alcohol evaporate. Add cream and saffron and stir. Add some ground white pepper and the mussels. Cook under a lid for a few minutes until the mussels have opened. Stir and taste the sauce, add a little salt if needed. Serve immediately with some nice bread.  

Classic moules marinières

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Funnily enough, even though Sweden has so much coast not everyone likes mussels. Somehow it’s a slightly required taste whereas I have yet to meet a Brit (or other European) who doesn’t like mussels. Here you find them on every other pub menu and fresh at the supermarket.

My American friend Laura just adores seafood so when she came over for lunch last Sunday I opted for a fresh bowl of moules marinières over a roast, which worked perfectly with the warm spring weather. To finish the meal we had chewy lemon cake and ice cream with the sun shining in through the open terrace door.

When it comes to classic French dishes I of course trust Julia Child and Rick Stein although they’re not French themselves but this time I went straight to the source and used Raymond Blanc’s terrific recipe.

A little about mussels: You can buy them a day or two before cooking and eating them. Cut up the net, pour them into a large bowl and cover with a damp cloth and keep in the fridge. Before serving take off the beards and discard any open mussels (the ones that don’t close when being tapped on the shell). Rinse thoroughly in a colander. 

After cooking you don’t need to discard any mussels that didn’t open, they’re still fresh and healthy, it is the ones that won’t close before cooking that are the bad ones. 

Moules Marinières, serves 2

Adapted from Raymond Blanc’s recipe.

750 g – 1 kg mussels

100 ml dry white wine

1 tbsp butter

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

2 tbsp double cream or whipping cream

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Wash the mussels and de-beard them. Discard any open mussels. 

Boil the wine in a small saucepan for 30 seconds then set aside (to remove the alcohol). Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a high heat, then add the onion, bay leaves and thyme. Stir for 10 seconds, then add the wine and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mussels open. Add the cream and parsley and stir well. No seasoning is required as the mussels will release a little salt water when they open, which is enough to season the dish perfectly.

Serve immediately with good-quality bread to mop up the juices. 

Dinner party preparations and nibbles

Place cards with songs

I had a dinner party for my friends in the summer house to mark my 30th birthday and with several guests it was quite a lot to prepare, but it all went well.

I feel confident enough in the kitchen now to be able to improvise if I need to. The day before the party I went grocery shopping and prepared the frozen dessert and on the day of the dinner party I did everything else, with help from my best friend Emma and my parents.

Emma got to do all the boring but time consuming tasks like wash and cut the potatoes, which I am very grateful for. We also left all the washing up for next day so we too could enjoy the party fully and that worked really well.

Mum made the table decorations

Salmon for the starter

The mussels are prepped

The meat is browned before hitting the oven

The guests can pour the aperitif

When the guests arrived we had bubbly and nibbles. Both the lovely ricotta stuffed mushrooms with lemon and persillade as well as mussels with aioli. In Sweden we don’t eat mussels very often, and I guess this was my attempt to put them ‘out there’. It seemed to work.

Mussels with aioli, makes 35-40

1 kg fresh large mussels (ca 35-40)

1 batch homemade aioli (see below)

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Rinse the mussels and de-beard them. Discard of the mussels that are open and or have broken shell. Bring the water to the boil in a large sauce pan and place as many as the mussels you can fit (cook them in batches if necessary), put the lid on and cook for a few minutes until the mussels are opened. Drain and let cool enough for you to discard of the empty half shells. Place the mussels shell side down in an oven-proof dish and place a dollop (1/2-1 tsp) of aioli on each mussel. Put in a 200C oven for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Aioli:

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

150 ml neutral oil

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, pepper

1 garlic clove, pressed

Place the yolk in a bowl and add the oil drop by drop at first and then in a small spout, while whisking. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and garlic.