The weekend is a time to show off one’s culinary skills to pals or loved ones – even the busiest of us can find enough time to create something interesting.
Even though there is a galaxy of celebrity chefs offering us simpler versions of sophisticated recipes, I find the irrational fear of many Londoners to cook a basic meal perplexing and sad.
All too often I see perfectly sane people perusing the aisles of Waitroses and other supermarkets, succumbing to the seduction of their exquisite sounding ready meals. Either that or they clutch a box of eggs, ready to jump onto the safety boat named omelette.
As a chef, I am lucky enough to know how to cook meals from scratch – so I find what may be tricky to most, is a piece of cake or a boeuf wellington to me!
That said, I am equally aware that though a ready meal may appear cost effective it is fundamentally not. In fact so called convenience food is neither cheaper, nor tastier nor easier to cook than a meal you create yourself.
Ever stirred by public events when I plot my evening’s cooking, this weekend made me year for les cuisine fraincais. The enjoyment at felling the French on the rugby pitch was overwhelmed by a hunger for moules.
I held off the urge until Tuesday when the mongers would be back in action; so the first trick is to dart past the facile temptation of vac-packed versions . Yes the allure is rich but to spend a comparable amount per head and swim in the satisfaction of fresh food gazumps it! It is effortless to make and is practically idiot proof!
2kg of fresh Moules
4 banana shallots
3 cloves of garlic
A decent bottle of French white – Muscadetor Chablis would more than agreeable. As the great Keith Floyd would say: ” if it’s not good enough to drink it’s not good enough to cook with”
120ml double cream
One should arise early and totter off to the local monger and buy the moules, asking the monger to clean them. Fishmongers often stock decent fresh herbs, so it is an opportune moment to grab the parsley.
Once safely home have a cup of tea or perhaps a restoring bullshot. Pop the moules into a colander and remove the byssal threads (they look like a ‘beard’) by pulling them from the mussel. Once you have finished this task, soak a newspaper – broadsheets are more effective – and wrap the moules in them. Store in the fridge.
Finely chop the parsley and shallots, storing separately. Squash the garlic using the flat of a knife, then cut further. Put the cream in a pan with garlic and bring to the boil. Leave aside, putting cling film directly on top of the cream to stop a skin forming.
Enjoy the remains of the day and wait for company.
When you are ready to cook, put the moules in a colander and run a cold tap over them, for the final cleanse. Pour a glass of wine, a chef’s portion is advisable.
Line up everything next to the gas hob, which should be belting out fire like Beelzebub. Place a large copper bottomed pan on the lick of the flame and gently drain the moules.
After two minutes fling the black beauties into the pan, which will cause an almighty racket. Quickly add a fair slug of wine,(around 120mls) and place on the lid – many believe this is the moment one can hear the souls of the moules escaping and clattering on the lid. Poppycock I think.
In 3-4 minutes open the lid and let the shallots and garlic cream join the party, boil for a minute without the lid.
Finally add the parsley.
Serve immediately with hunks artisan bread and gallons of chilled Muscadet.