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Over the summer it suddenly dawned on us that we hadn’t had any cream in the fridge for over a month. A month! Even though it didn’t feel like a proper sunny summer, our eating habits had definitely changed with the seasons. We were mostly barbecuing, and having salads and salsas as accompaniments, rather than the usual heavy boozy, creamy, buttery sides (I’m looking forward to winter already).

So our food’s been simple and summery. This is my excuse of it being rather quiet in Molly’s Kitchen recently anyway. It could also be that I wanted a bit of a break and not over-analyse my dinner, nor annoy Jamie with endless photos of the food before he was allowed to eat it.

Tonight’s dinner though I was excited about. Finally a month with an ‘R’ again and I had a lot of mussels. It was dinner for one, and I wanted to recreate a dinner Jamie and I had in Kinsale, Ireland a few years ago (beautiful fishing village famed for its food). Normally when I buy mussels, we do moules frites, just because it’s so good. Tonight though, as I was on my own, I wanted to experiment.  They didn’t disappoint, but I did disappoint myself in the number that I could consume.

Stuffed Mussels – Serves 2

35 mussels, de-bearded

Glass of white wine

1 bay leaf

25g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tblsp fennel leaves (or tarragon, or dill or chervil)

50g breadcrumbs (see below)

25g parmesan, grated

Cream and Chive Sauce

2 shallots, finely chopped

Couple of ladles of mussel liquor

2 tblsp crème fraîche

Squeeze of lemon

1 tblsp chopped chives

Homemade Breadcrumbs

We normally just make breadcrumbs when we need them, which is without fail quite annoying as it adds to the time taken to make a dish and quite often the bread’s too moist.

Anyway, whilst on holiday, it transpired that Linus has a foolproof method of preserving breadcrumbs for, as he suggested, all eternity. And the key is moisture, or lack thereof. I think this is the method he insisted upon (although we were probably already onto our fifth bottle of Buzet by that time):

Use at least one day old bread, tear into lumps, and warm through in the oven. Then blitz into breadcrumbs and lay out on a baking sheet, and bake again – thus getting the breadcrumbs as dry as possible and not leaving them open to mould.

The Mussels:

Firstly poach the prepared mussels in a large saucepan (see Moules Frites for guidance), with just enough water to cover them as well as the wine and bay. Poach until just opened (about three minutes), strain through a colander, reserving the mussel liquor and leave to cool. I prepared (and stuffed) my mussels in the afternoon, as knew I’d be hungry by the time Molly was down.

Next, prepare the stuffing. Gently fry the shallots and garlic in the butter, and when translucent add to the breadcrumbs, season and add the fennel leaves.

In order to grill the mussels, you’ll need to make sure the mussels don’t spill out their contents. I used two baking dishes, with a covering of coarse salt, which helps keep the mussels level.

Twist off and discard the mussel-less half of the shell, and using a teaspoon, fill each half with the breadcrumb stuffing. Lay in the dishes and at the end cover with a smattering of parmesan.

Next make the sauce:

Gently fry the shallots in a knob of butter. Add the liquor and simmer until almost all gone.

Add the cream, and whisk through. Then take off the heat and add the lemon, seasoning and chives.

Finally:

Under a hot grill, grill the mussels for a couple of minutes (until breadcrumbs are golden).

To Serve:

Homegrown leaf and beans

Hot buttered toast

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