Choosing Mussels over Muscles
I remember my first mussel experience. Barcelona, 2004 and a big plate of paella. I’d never tried them before, but my oh so cosmopolitan auntie who was well travelled, and enjoyed seafood, encouraged me to pop a couple out from their shells and give them a go.
They were properly cooked, buttery, delicious and were the ideal addition to the steaming plate of rice, prawns, meat and vegetables before me.
Unlike the other type of muscles, that you can craft in a few months at your local gymnasium, the edible type takes 12-15 months to reach maturity and be ready to eat. If you’ve got your tape measure out, you’re looking for it to be around 40mm in size when it’s set for harvesting. There’s around 17 species of mussel to eat and cool fact coming up… in the times of the second world war, mussels became a great favourite due to their abundance, versus the shortage of meat due to rationing.
You’ll find many ways to enjoy mussels (see paella story above) but one of the most simple ways to eat them is as moules-frites. Literally a big bowl of mussels and a plate of crispy French fries and off you go, digging in. In some European countries they like to serve mussels with a butter or white wine sauce, others, they are favoured as a simple take-out item, breaded or battered and easy to snack on.
They are incredibly versatile and can be cooked in so many ways (boiled, steamed, with white wine, with butter… the list goes on). You should always look to cook mussels where the shells are closed – buying uncooked mussels with open shells could be risky – they are likely dead and could be toxic. Conversely though, although mussels usually open during cooking, around 10% of mussels fail to open their shells once cooked, but are deemed safe to eat. So don’t automatically bin those poor critters that haven’t quite managed to open in the pan.
Further good news – the fat in mussels is of the heart-healthy variety, they have lots of vitamins and contain magnesium and zinc. These two minerals are generally lacking in adults, so it’s a fantastic way to add them to your diet.
Fear not, if you haven’t had the time to head over to Barcelona for a giant paella, The Big Prawn Company produces a diverse range of mussels includes Moules Mariniere, cooked mussels and mussels in brine, available to buy then try at home.
You’ll even find them in their seafood tapas selection too. If all else fails, you can turn up the heating, put the summer songs on and pretend you’re in Spain… all from the comfort of your kitchen.
Written by Claire Partridge – alter ego What Claire Did – a 30 year old blogger from Glasgow in Scotland who loves cooking, eating out and travel.