Yesterday I returned from a long-weekend in Lille, the capital of Flanders and home to one of my most wonderful friends and his loving partner. We shared recipes, discussed politics, food and love and bathed in the warm glow of deep friendship. A truly lovely weekend and one that has helped to restore my spirit. And my passion for creating recipes.
Peter has not eaten meat for nearly twenty years and is a brilliant cook of all dishes pescatarian. He concentrates on a one or two key quality ingredients at each meal and creates simple but beautifully orchestrated food.
I have never cooked mussels, being rather nervous of their barnacles and fearful of poisoning myself or others if the little blighters choose not to open. Peter however is fearless and far more sensible than me and so he executed a vibrantly freshly flavoured version of moules marinieres which we christened Moules Lillois.
Moules Lillois (serves three to four)
2kg fresh mussels
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 or 4 stems of celery (depending on their thickness), diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
200ml white wine
Large sprig of parsley, chopped
Wash the mussels, scrape off any lingering barnacles and discard those that are open or cracked.
Fry the shallots, celery and garlic in olive oil until they soften. Add the carrot and fry for a few more minutes. Add the thyme, wine and water and raise the heat so that the liquid simmers. Add a good grinding of black pepper. Throw in the mussels and cook for four to five minutes until their shells have opened and the flesh is a tender orange in colour.
Remove from the heat and serve into large bowls with the liquor, removing any shells that failed to open. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.
Uncomplicated and truly delicious. There is a lot to be said to such an approach to food.
For more about Peter and his move to France, visit Le Log Lillois at http://newmanlegros.blogspot.com