Sunday, 24 August 2014

Moules Marinieres

We had a holiday once, the Husband and I, in the very North West of Scotland, on the mainland just before you cross to Skye, in the shadow of Eilean Donan (the 'Highlander' castle if that helps). 

There are many things I could recount about that holiday - the incredibly long drive north, from Salisbury Plain (including an interesting evening in Penrith), towing a dinghy; the persistent sea mist that hovered about 3 inches above our heads for the entire week (apart from 1 day); the midges that occupied the 3 inches between our heads and the mist; the fact that the Husband had to be in daily contact with the powers that were at the time, being as he was still in the Army, and being that a little issue called Afghanistan was looming - but mobile phone signal was - ahem - patchy; the even longer journey home punctuated in all senses by a burst boat trailer tyre which kept us enjoying the delights of Fort Augustus (tearooms, doilies, the Loch Ness Monster) for 6 hours while Mrs McTavish who'd already taken the post bus to Inverness earlier in the day, attempted to locate a replacement for us...

Do I make it sound like a less than perfect holiday? Well in fact it was great - there was sailing, walking, there was visiting of castles (but of course), otters, whisky... But one of the best things about the holiday - certainly one of the most memorable - was a little note in the visitors book in the cottage we hired, an aside mentioning a place on the opposite side of the loch where you could find great mussels. As you might imagine, we were up for a challenge, and indeed, instructions followed, we treated ourselves to an evening of moules ├ęcossais after which I seem to remember walking to the nearest establishment offering both musical and alcoholic entertainment for a ceilidh...

Fast forward too many years to state, and a few weeks ago, the Husband came home from work with news of 'the' place locally to find mussels. Of course, I cannot possibly reveal the whereabouts of this treasure trove, but on Saturday, with the tides looking favourable, he set off with the kids to forage.

Of course, once you know where to go, the issue is not collecting the mussels, it's making sure they are safe to eat. Wild mussels aren't, of course, subject to the UV treatment of farmed mussels, so if you're going to eat them, you have to take care from where you collect them (somewhere with a big tidal range, lots of water, no sewage pipes...) to how you keep them, clean them and cook them.

So the Husband's 3.8 kilos of mussels. Kept in sea water overnight after a rather fraught journey home in the back of the camper van. We made up 4 litres of brine, and then spent a good hour or so this morning de-bearding and scrubbing them, then soaked them in the brine for another 4 hours before cooking them (having discarded any that were open and didn't close on being given a sharp tap.

Lunch, then, was entirely the Husband's creation, adapted from the recipe we used in Scotland all those years ago. 1.5 onions finely chopped and sweated in a good knob of bitter (about 30g, it looked like to me) with 2 crushed cloves of garlice. Once they were good and soft, his sous chef (me) tipped the mussels into the pan while he tipped in about 250 ml white wine, and then banged the lid on for 5-6 minutes while the mussels steamed in the winey vapours...

Then all you need is bowls to serve the mussels in, good bread and bob, as they say, is your moule...

Delicious - not a bit of grit, creamy, fresh and full of the flavours of the sea. And while not completely won over, the kids ate them too. Pretty successful, I'd say...


  1. Oh my goodness - the midges!! I had a boyfriend of 3 years, we had backpacked round Africa - then we went to Scotland and broke up because I had a meltdown over the midges!! and I didn't get to eat those wonderful moules marinieres either!!!! Wonderful recipe!

  2. Find the latest used and new boats for sale.
    Great used boat deals and prices.
    More here

  3. I love moules with chips or lots of bread to mop up those delicious juices! Elinor x

  4. Foraged food has to be the most rewarding thing ever! :)


I LOVE comments - please leave one. Unfortunately, I have been getting hideous amounts of SPAM so please can you do the word verification thingy?