Yesterday, Tessa and I went to the mussel farm at Loch Spelve to buy a big bag of moules for supper. I'd never been to one before, so was unprepared for the sight of a JCB pouring mussels onto a conveyor belt leading in to the packing shed. There, six or seven nimble-fingered people were sorting the shells - picking out the small or cracked ones, letting the rest go past and into a holding tank, before being packed and sent off to the mainland. Not many of the mussels are eaten in Mull - this is a lucrative cash crop, and the family-run farm is a reliable employer in an area where jobs are scarce.
We put the money in an honesty box (in Edinburgh, half the mussels cost twice the price) and went home. Tessa cooked them like this:
5 kg mussels
5 medium onions
5 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
375 ml water
375 ml dry white wine
Clean and check the mussels under cold running water. Sweat the finely chopped onion, shallot and garlic in a little of the butter. After about 10 minutes, add the parsley, water and wine, and cook for five more minutes. Add the mussels, clamp on the lid, and leave to steam over a low heat so that the shells open. Shake the pan occasionally. It should take about five minutes.
Strain the mussels in a colander, letting the juices fall into a saucepan. Reduce them down, then lower the heat and whisk in the butter. You can also add a little cream if you have some.
Put the mussels into a heated tureen and pour on the sauce, plus extra parsley.
The fresher the mussels, the better the dish. But you didn't need me to tell you that. Nor that Tessa's were delicious.
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