On our way back from our vacation in Britanny this year, we had the chance to see our old friends Laure and Sébastien again after what seems an eternity. Amongst much chatting and catching up and acquainting Max with his future wife Yuna (now 4 months old) - yes, arranged marriages do exist in Europe as well, but only if two kids are so exceptionally cute and quite obviously made for each other as these two - we were also treated to a pot of fresh mussels, which they had prepared with a curry broth - délicieux! I wasn't alert enough to ask for the recipe so I had to experiment a bit - but I think that curry and sherry not only rhyme (when you make a bit of an effort), they are also a great taste combination.
While on vacation, no day would pass without us indulging in seafood - oysters, langoustines, mussels, all freshly prepared of course. We had never actually tried our fish monger in this area - we tend to buy fish and, on rare occasions, order some live lobster in. Last week we just couldn't resist, so strong was the urge for seafood, so we bought some fresh langoustines, which are oh so easy to prepare: just dump in boiling water, add a splash of vinegar, return to the boil, cook for 20 - 30 seconds (yes, seconds) and refresh in ice-cold water. We dunked them in a bit of gourmet mayonnaise à l'ancienne and ate them with some fresh, crusty baguette.
The mussels needed a bit more attention than that - apart from meticulously cleaning the shells (which my Mom thankfully took care of), there was the broth to prepare... but with mussels as meaty as these and a broth as tasty as the one we had, no effort could be too great!
I never use cutlery when eating seafood - for mussels, I usually find an empty shell which I use like tweezers to lift the meat from the shell and I slurp the broth using a shell as a spoon. For langoustines, I just crack the shell open by squeezing the tail with my fingers and tearing the membrane underneath, then carefully pulling the meat out. The claws are the only thing I need some help with, a simple nutcracker and a fondue or lobster fork work best.
My daughter always says we only like seafood because we can get so messy when we eat it - I think she has a point. Some things just taste nicer when you use you hands, involving all your senses, basically!
2 kg mussels
50 g butter
3 big shallots (ca. 100 g) (finely chopped)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
200 ml dry sherry
500 ml fish stock
100 ml crème fraîche
2 dash worcestershire sauce
1 heaped tbsp curry spice mix*
Clean the mussels. First put them in cold water for about 10 minutes, removing any that are broken. If any had opened since you bought them, this should make them close up. Discard any which stay open. Carefully remove the barnacles ("beards"), not by cutting them off, but by gently wrestling with the mussels to release them, otherwise you'll be left with the remainders inside the shell. Clean the mussels with a strong brush to get rid of any other oceanic material they may carry.
Heat the butter in a large pot and fry the shallots and garlic until soft, making sure they don' t go brown. Deglaze with the sherry and reduce by half. Add the fish stock and cream, then reduce for a further 10 minutes. Season with the worcester sauce and curry. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook vigorously until the mussels have fully opened. Serve with crusty bread.
*On the continent, we tend not to be as familiar with Indian food as in the UK. In most countries you will find that local spice manufacturers/wholesalers will create their own curry spice mix which usually cannot be associated with any of the seasonings so traditional for Britain - no Korma, Tikka Masala, Jalfrezi etc but a blend of spices usually containing loads of turmeric and saffron, hence the strong yellow colour.