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Monday, 13 July 2015

Rope grown live mussels from Tesco. Delicious!

For a treat I love to cook myself a bag of mussels. I prefer them very fresh and love the moment when, in my occasional fishmonger role, on the busy set up of the elaborate Tesco fish counter, I get to open a new sealed tub of Scottish rope grown mussels! That early morning seaside ozone aroma lustfully emanating from the rectangular plastic tub is almost as intoxicating as opening a sealed bag of smoked fish. I love it! So, dear readers, at the back end of last week I treated myself to a whole kilo bag and skipped happily through the store after work as I chose a nice sharp fresh white wine (an Italian Soave from Tesco's Simply wine range) to cook with and to imbibe. Well actually, I will be honest and say, two bottles because really, a couple of small glasses are barely enough to make the evening of foodie delights go with a zing, are they!?

chopped coriander stalks and leaves with garlic

The mussels were very very tasty and much tastier and plumper than those I had in Bordeaux in June. I was fascinated by the pure white barnacles on a few of the shells too and started to imagine the life they must have had in the clear waters attached to the bouchottes, as we love to say in France.

Barnacles on a few of the mussels

Me busy in the kitchen still in my Tesco outfit!
I already had organic garlic bulbs and some coriander at home and chose a fresh short French style baguette hot from the Tesco bakery to eat with the mussels and dip into the unctuous (never get tired of that unctuous word) deeply flavoursome juices that collect during the short cooking period of the mussels.

I finely chopped five or six garlic bulbs (the wine helps me forget the actual amount but the after morning breath doesn't and is certainly less forgiving!) with some coriander stalks to gently warm through in Filippo Berio olive oil before adding the cleaned and moisture drained mussels. Yes I know that Extra Virgin shouldn't really be used for cooking but it is soooo tasty, very slightly resonant of pepper (a little tender warming hit on the back palate) and the richest and warmest of olive oil flavours!

The time consuming bit is cleaning the mussels by pulling off the beards and discarding the very few broken shells. From a whole greedy kilo I only found four broken shells. Actually the cleaning process can be equally as satisfying as shelling peas into a colander with your lovable whiskery granny. Do kids still do that these days? The satisfaction can't possibly be the same from emptying a solid glob of frozen peas into a colander to defrost - surely? Anyway- moving on...

Another blast from the past was instigated by me deciding to cut a lemon in the way that I was encouraged to cut a tomato for grilling in the extremely limited cookery lessons us young teenage boys had in the 1970s at school. Actual tomatoes (btw no actual 'on the vine' tomatoes were harmed in the process about to be described) were de-seeded by myself, sliced and added to the cooking mussels as well as a good fistful of coriander leaves. Traditionally the herb would be flat leaved parsley but I like to ring the changes as I also did by throwing in a pinch of nutty caraway seeds to a touch of something extra to the final taste.

Just look at that plump mussel!!! Yum!

Yesterday, a Sunday, a handsome young couple purchased some fresh mussels from me at the Tesco fish counter and the chap called them moules. Therefore I presumed he was either French or Belgian. Turned out he was of Russian linage. What a fascinating world of culinary diverse nationalities we meet at Tesco! Bon appetite!
For fans of Mr Harris the cat I would add that, in his fussy cat way, he wasn't so impressed by cooked seafood as he was by chorizo some while back and sat sulking by the back door as I got even  more excited and anticipatory about my evening treat of Scottish rope grown mussels! He did look cute albeit a little disgruntled, sat by the flowers though!
Photos and text by Phil Lowe

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