West Country Mussels, Cider, Bacon, Spring Onions and Cream

There is very little need to write a recipe for this kind of dish, it is naturally intuitive and just a simple, locally seasoned version of the classic “Moulés Mariniere” that is so popular. Here we exchange the white wine for dry cider (Very Dorset – and quite Brittany….) add some tasty local bacon and organic spring onions, seal the deal with a little super rich double cream and we are in feast fit for a king territory, the nuts and bolts of how to put this dish together are below, but make it your own and use this advice as a starting point and a guideline only.

The very best mussels are key to this dish, make sure they are well cleaned of their beards and any sand by giving them a good wash in cold fresh water – but do not leave them submerged for long periods of time; you want them to keep their salty sea water, not drown in fresh water. The beards can simply be pulled from the mussel shell, don’t be over fussy about it though, life, is far too short.

Serves 4

1kg good quality mussels

50g good smoked bacon

100ml double cream

2 lovely fresh spring onions

2 cloves of garlic

250ml good dry cider

A good sprig of fresh thyme

A pinch of chilli flakes (Optional)

25g butter

Set the mussels free of whatever container they are in and place them in a bowl under a running tap – rinse in cold clean water, stirring occasionally for a minute or two, drain well, and place in the fridge with a damp cloth over them until required. Discard any Mussels that are open and fail to react when tapped on the work top, remove any obvious “beards” by simply pulling them out.

Place a large casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid on the stove over a moderate to strong heat, remove the lid and add the butter.

Slice your spring onions and garlic, keep the spring onion greens separate from the whites as these go in the pot later. Add the diced bacon, sliced garlic, sliced spring onion whites and the thyme to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Turn up the heat and add the muscles, add the cider and put the lid on the pan.

After two minutes on a high heat, remove the lid and add the cream – hopefully most of the mussels are open but if not pop the lid back on for another minute or two. We want the mussels cooked, but we do not want them over cooked BUT we REALLY,  really do not want them under cooked either, so stir them about and be sure the majority are nicely cooked before adding the onion greens and (if you want) a few chilli flakes or some black pepper. Allow the mussels to rest for a few minutes in the pan with the heat turned off but the lid on. Stove in bowls with either plenty of good bread to hand or a large bowl of chips!

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