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Can’t really beat garlic, cream and parsley. They work with anything that you might not otherwise think about eating. I love mussels though, and snails and all things slimey and Gallic. This is an easy dish to make, but it instantly makes the occasion special. Some of the most memorable meals out have involved mussels. Oh, and beef. And wine.

We adhere to the adage that you should only eat them during a month with the letter ‘R’, and it goes without saying that they’re best eaten as fresh as possible. None have surpassed the ones we hand-picked in Cornwall, but living in the centre of a land-mass means we have to rely on the fish-monger. Some batches of mussels are disappointing. And I still don’t understand why they cost so much. Advice on preparing them always seems confusing too. Generally we go with the rule of thumb that before cooking, if they float when de-bearding then discard, if they’re open and don’t close when you give them a tap, then likewise, and once cooked and they don’t open, then give up.

As for the chips, they’re pretty straight-forward oven chips. Seasoning is important, especially half-way through as this helps crisp them up.

Serves Two

For the mussels:

1 kg of mussels

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, smooshed and finely chopped

Large glug of dry white wine

1 tspn of Dijon mustard

3 tbspn crème fraîche

Good handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus some chopped chervil

Good squeeze of lemon

For the chips:

5 or 6 potatoes (we eat a lot of chips, feel free to use less)

Thyme, leaves removed

To prepare the mussels, just have them in a sink full of cold water and under the running tap, de-beard them as best you can. The more beard you remove, the less grit there’ll be in the jus.

Wash, peel and slice the potatoes into chips. Put into a bowl of water for around fifteen minutes (or whilst the oven warms up to 200c). Then rinse the chips, leave to dry on some kitchen paper. Oil and season metal oven-proof dishes (we use two so the chips are spread out and are less likely to go soggy or cook unevenly), heat dishes in oven for about five minutes. Throw in the chips, move around to coat in the oil and chuck in the thyme.

The chips take 25 – 30 minutes, so after fifteen minutes, get to work on the mussels. Season the chips halfway through and give them a good shake a couple of times.

Meanwhile, melt some butter and a dash of olive oil in a heavy lidded pan. Add the onions and fry until soft, adding the garlic halfway. Season, add the mustard and wine and then after a few minutes add the cream. When the chips are about five minutes away from being ready, add the mussels, and put the lid on. They should only take two to three minutes; you basically want them to have just opened their shells. Remove from heat, add the herbs and lemon, check seasoning and get ready to glut out… We serve with a green salad, which amazingly is still going in the garden despite the guinea pigs’ best efforts.

So, have a discard bowl for the shells and a good bottle of wine at the ready… And tonight a little bit of patience as the oven decided to die, and we ended up finishing the chips off under the grill. Yay… might be solely relying on the pizza oven for Christmas this year….

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