style Topsham mussels
Kim Millon ©
Devon April 29, 2005 Gerald Ridgeway (tel 01392 876167), an
enterprising Topsham fisherman and friend, has taken a lease on the
Exe riverbed downriver near Lympstone and has started raising Exe mussels,
oysters and clams. Gerald's lease on the Exe is for quite a substantial
stretch of foreshore. The clams will apparently take a couple of years
to grow to edible size, but right now Gerald is harvesting a very tasty
haul of mussels, purified once a week by UV light in a saline tank he's
set up in his garage around the corner from us.
So now every
Thursday, Gerald cycles around with a bag of mussels - we have 2 kg
a week which costs us the princely sum of 2 pounds. They are incredibly
good, very clean (only need a light scrub and debearding), very full
in the shell, firm and big (but not too big), and really tasty. We all
love them, mostly classically steamed in white wine and shallots à
la mariniere. I also enjoy them cooked Ancona-style in a tomato sauce
to serve over spaghetti; with Asian flavourings, lots of chilli and
lemongrass; Belgium style moules frites (the fries served with mayo);
mussels in a saffron risotto; moules farci (on the halfshell with garlic
breadcrumbs and parsley).
I could eat them most days and never tire of them. But, but...I sense
the beginnings of a mussel mutiny from Guy and Bella ("Thursday?
Oh no, not mussels in white wine again...") and am anxious to nip
it in the bud before it before it flowers into a full-blown protest
that will ruin my mussel-eating days forever.
So I asked
some of my food writer chums to suggest some alternative methods to
ring the changes and keep the family happy.
Mary Whiting commented on my enviable source of cheap local food.“Your
mouth-watering post warms the cockles of my heart,” wrote John.
“In a world in which the historic foods of peasants can typically
be enjoyed only by the rich, I am increasingly interested in ingredients/recipes
that can genuinely be afforded by the impecunious, and mussels continue
to occupy an honored place in the repertoire.” And with that he
shared with me a delicious looking recipe for mussels prepared Italian
style in tomato and garlic.
from the South of France, suggested a number of preparations, though
the one I liked best was steamed in a glug of pastis.
Raffael suggested a rarity that I had heard of but never actually tried:
an eclade. This is apparently best done on a beach: you take the mussels
and arrange them on a board in a sort of spiral pyramid, cover them
with pine needles and bay leaves, and ignite. Once the fire has burned
away, dust off any excess ash and simply feast with your fingers, the
tide preferably lapping at your toes and chilling your bottle of two
of Vin de Pays Charentais.
So many wonderful
ideas! I couldn't resist, however, Sue Style’s suggestion for
mussels cooked in a Thai green curry sauce. Said Sue, “Picture
those plump orange ovals from the Exe resting on black rice in a spicy
sauce with some chopped coriander, served in deep white soup bowls -
Kim won't be able to resist photographing them, and they taste dangerously
good. Hope this will keep Guy and Bella on board for at least another
week or so...”
mussels in Thai green curry sauce
Serves 4 for a main course, 8 for a starter
kg mussels in the shell
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 large piece ginger, sliced
Zest of 1 lime, pared off with potato peeler
Stalk of lemongrass, crushed and finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2-3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp Thai green curry paste
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
Black rice (or Basmati or Thai rice)
Coriander and basil leaves to garnish
Scrub the mussels well and pull out any beards. Put mussels in a large
with shallot, ginger, lime zest and leaves, lemongrass and chilli. Cook
over high heat until the shells open (about 3-5 minutes).
2. Remove from the heat, tip the mussels into a colander set over a
large bowl; measure out 1 cup of cooking juices and strain it through
a fine cloth (if there is more liquid, reduce to concentrate).
3. Mix the curry paste into the strained mussel juices and put it in
a saucepan with the coconut milk.
4. Shell the mussels and set them aside.
5. Warm some soup bowls.
6. Cook rice.
7. Heat the sauce gently, add the mussels and let them heat through
for a couple of minutes.
8. Divide the rice between heated soup bowls, spoon the mussels and
sauce over, garnish with torn coriander and basil leaves.
copyright © Sue Style 2005