Moules Marinière

My son is flying back to the UK today to spend some time with his brother for a couple of weeks. We are always looking for any excuse for good food so I asked him what he would like for a farewell dinner last night. Bearing in mind we are trying to be healthy I was ecstatic when he said that he would like oysters to start with followed by mussels!

Alas, it was not to be. I sent husband and son off shopping and they came back without oysters; they were being delivered today. Instead they came back with some mussels and very naughty bread to be followed by steak and chips! Oh well…

moules (4)

People have told me that they love mussels but are frightened of poisoning themselves by not preparing them correctly but trust me, it’s easy.

How to prepare the mussels:

  • Fill a bowl with cold water and tip in the mussels.
  • Under the cold tap remove the stringy, beardy bits and check each mussel. If it’s cracked or won’t shut when you tap it then chuck it.
  • Discard any that float in the water.
  • After cooking, advise your guests to chuck any that have not opened.

Just follow the rule of: before cooking mussel shut, if not open after chuck.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 300g per person for a starter or 500g for a main course, washed and checked
  • 2 finely chopped shallots (or 1 onion)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • glass of dry white wine ( I used a Muscadet)
  • I glass of water
  • chopped fresh parsley or coriander
  • knob of butter or oil

Here’s what I did:

moules (2)

  • Heat the butter in a large saucepan ( I used a stockpot), and add the shallots.
  • Fry gently until they soften and add the garlic for 1 minute.
  • Tip in the wine and water, herbs and mussels.
  • Pop on the lid and the mussels should start to open within a few minutes.
  • Give them a stir round to make sure the ones at the top are cooked or shake the pan.
  • Sprinkle with more herbs and serve.

moules (3)Don’t they look gorgeous! This is my lazy version so there is no faff with measuring apart from buying the mussels! You can add some cream but done this way it’s a virtuous dish and, to be honest, they don’t really need it. Add more wine or water if you like more juices.

Tips:

  • I like to bring the steaming pot to the table and let everyone help themselves. It’s much more impressive and they stay nice and warm.
  • You can serve them simply with bread or be really good and just have a salad.Salad

Or, you could be naughty and have dirty chips and bread! This was from another night.

Moules...or mussels, whichever, they taste fantastic!

  • Rather than messing about with a fork simply use a mussel as your tool to pinch the mussels from the shells.
  • You probably won’t have any leftovers but sometimes I keep a few cooked ones back and pop them in the freezer, still in their shells. I find it’s great to chuck them onto a paella last minute if you are can’t get to the shops. Use within a month.

‘Moules frites’ are sold in most restaurants where I live at lunchtimes so it seems a staple diet for the French people. If you’ve never tried them give it a go. The sweetness of the mussels and the saltiness of the sea is a great combination. The bread is great for soaking up all the delicious juices.

How do you cook your mussels?

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Easy Spring Rolls

Who doesn’t love a spring roll? I have to say they were never really one of my favourite take-away foods as more often than not they were always oozing, and I mean ‘ooozzingg’ with grease! Luckily, the lovely French people seem to love the old ‘printemps’ and sell them everywhere in all flavours, including crab, prawn, pork and chicken, but still they are desperately greasy. So yes, chez le rêve, we are trying to be healthy, and the poor deep fat fryer has been cleaned and consigned to the cellar for a while, (sob..) but I still have urges! I now feel quietly smug that I may have found a solution to this using a few cheats along the way.

Here’s what you need for 8 rather large spring rolls!

  • 8 sheets Brique pastry or 16 of filo.
  • 50g (1 nest) mung bean vermicelli noodles (any glass noodle type thingy will do).
  • 1 small jar Chinese veg drained (usually beansprouts and carrots etc).
  • tin of cheapo crab.
  • finely chopped red chilli (optional) .
  • I finely chopped spring onion.

Easy Baked Spring Rolls (3) Easy Baked Spring Rolls (4) Easy Baked Spring Rolls (2)

Here’s what I did:

  • Cook your noodles. Normally shove them in boiled water and wait about 3 minutes.
  • Drain noodles and combine with other ingredients.
  • Take a sheet of brique (or 2 sheets filo, lightly oiled between) and dollop an 1/8th of the mixture as shown on the picture.
  • Roll up and bring in the sides carefully and stick on a baking tray.
  •  Lightly brush the top with oil and bake about 10 mins gas 6, or 200 degrees.

Easy Baked Spring Rolls

Serve it with a bit of shop bought or homemade chilli sauce and enjoy the delicious crunch of pastry and veggies without piling on the pounds! Perfect as a starter or side in a Chinese banquet or when you are just feeling naughty. Give ’em a go and tell me how easy it was – I promise it will be!

Top tips:

  • If you have cooked shredded meat like pork, chicken or duck you could use this instead.
  • Use defrosted budget prawns or chopped squid lightly cooked. Be sure not to freeze if you have used defrosted ingredients.
  • If you  can’t get hold of Chinese veggies in a jar – hard luck! Some supermarkets sell fresh mung beans but I’ve not seen them in France. I would suggest finely sliced spring onion, grated carrot, peppers and mangetout. In fact, add what you like!
  • We ate 4 and froze the rest in an old takeaway plastic container. They are best cooked from frozen or will go soggy. If you are doing this add a few minutes more.

So please have a go. It looks difficult but it’s really easy. Your family will think you are marvelous and you will know it’s as healthy as you can make it at a fraction of the price. Another Virtuous dish.

Spicy Stuffed Squid

This is another Virtuous dish. Can you guess that I am on a diet yet? It’s been hot for weeks here, regularly in the 30’s, so the good thing is that we haven’t wanted to eat much.  I absolutely love squid and have seen similar recipes on the television but they looked a bit complicated so I just thought about what I already had in the house .  This is what I came up with.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 12 small squid bodies (they were frozen)
  • 1  160g tin cheapo crab, well drained
  • 1 chopped birds-eye chilli or a few flakes
  • 1 finely chopped spring onion
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped or half an onion
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp fish sauce optional

What I did:

  • Mix crab, fish sauce, chilli, coriander and spring onion in a bowl.
  • Heat about 1 tsp vegetable oil in a small pan and add the shallot to soften.
  • Add the garlic and ginger for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  • Combine the crab and garlic mixture and use a teaspoon to stuff the squid, leaving enough room to secure with a cocktail stick.
  • Heat a griddle pan or bbq and cook for about a minute each side to get some sear marks but take care not to overcook.

Stuffed Squid

We had this as a starter on our weekly curry night. Serve them with a little chilli sauce or just a squeeze of lemon. I put a little salad garnish of cucumber and sliced radish, cucumber and spring onion. It tasted amazing! Great for a dinner party or romantic dinner for two. Give it a go – I’d love to know what you think.

Top tips: 

  • If you don’t want to shell out for crab chop up some budget prawns or use a mixture of the two.
  • To save time make a garlic and ginger mix.  Peel 3 whole bulbs of garlic and 1/3  their weight in ginger. Roughly chop ginger then add to a food processor piece by piece then garlic. Add some vegetable oil until a paste is made. You might need to scrape the sides a few times. Stick it in a container and pour over extra oil to seal, cover and store in fridge. It save grating your fingers if you like a lot of curry dishes. I got this  tip from having a day cooking with Reza Mohammad who has a home in the Charente. Of course, you could buy a little jar of crushed ginger!