© David Loftus
Creamy mussels with smoky bacon & cider
Mussels are the future. They’re absolutely gorgeous, cheap, exciting, easy to farm and so quick to cook. The other brilliant thing about them is that they don’t need any feeding: they live off tiny plants that they filter out of the water so they actually clean the sea. I want to help you fall back in love with them.
I had my first mussel when I was about 7 years old and I remember it to this day. It’s so exciting to pick the first one out of the shell and enjoy it then use that shell as pincers to eat the rest, chucking the empty shells into another bowl. My kids love them – they’re great fun for kids to eat.
Put your bread on a screaming hot griddle, in the toaster or under a hot grill to toast.
Meanwhile, put a large pan on a high heat with a lug of olive oil. Once hot, add the sliced bacon then stir and cook for a couple of minutes, or until golden and crispy. Scoop the bacon out of the pan, leaving the flavoured fat behind. Check your mussels, if any of them are open just give them a little tap and they should close; if they don’t they’re no good to eat so chuck those ones away. Add the mussels to the hot pan with the garlic, cider and a good lug of olive oil. Cover with a lid and leave to steam for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mussels have opened and are soft, juicy and delicious. Shake the pan occasionally.
Meanwhile, rub your toasts with the cut side of a garlic clove and drizzle them lightly with extra virgin olive oil.
When all of the mussels have opened, they’re ready. Transfer them to a large platter, leaving the juices behind in the pan. If any of the mussels have remained closed, throw those away, they’re no good. Lay your toasts around the edge of the platter.
Stir the crème fraîche into the pan then let it come to the boil and bubble away for a couple of minutes. Add most of the herbs and a little of the bacon then have a taste and season with pepper. Give the pan a jiggle then pour the sauce over your mussels. Scatter over the remaining herbs and bacon then bang the platter in the middle of the table and let everyone tuck in.
serves: 2 as a main, or 4 as a starter
• olive oil
• 6 rashers smoked streaky bacon, the best • quality you can afford, sliced 1cm thick
• 1kg mussels, debearded and scrubbed clean (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 150ml good-quality cider
• 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
• a small bunch of fresh tarragon, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
for the toasts
• ½-1 loaf of good-quality rustic bread or ciabatta, sliced 2cm thick
• 1 clove of garlic, halved
• extra virgin olive oil