The Mighty Mussel

They may be small, but boy is the mussel mighty. The mussel is a small mollusc, like clams and oysters, which cling to piers, rocks or any fixed object in the water with their ‘beards’. The mussel’s ‘beard’ is known as the byssus, this is the sticky part which it uses to secure itself to the surface. Mussels rely on the water currents to bring them plankton to eat and oxygen to breathe and can live in either salt or fresh water. Mussels certainly aren’t lone travellers, they instead live in large groups and cover the surface of the object which their cluster has decided to call its home. Meaning once you’ve found one, you’ve found a whole meals worth.

The mussel may not look like it’s going to be the most impressive dish, with its blue-black shell, hanging off of the sides of planks of wood but it certainly doesn’t disappoint and once it is cooked it can have the power to transform any meal with the super satisfying raw intensity of its flavour. Moules marinière is the classic way for Mussels to be served, but did you know, despite this famous dish being so popular in France, it originates from Belgium? Dating back to 1781, mussels were, and still are often prepared in most Belgian homes with large steaming pots laden with the shells being a familiar sight especially in the winter time when there was a lack of fish available. Since then, the dish has become highly popular in France as well as around the rest of Europe, and especially over here in the UK. Here at WestBeach we serve this dish using our freshly caught Cornish mussels cooked in cream, white wine, garlic and shallots and can be served either with fries or without to soak up all the extra sauce. It is an extremely popular dish with all of our customers, regulars and visitors alike. We pride ourselves on not only doing the classics well but also coming up with innovative flavour combinations, including the way we serve our mussels. Combing flavours from various parts of the world to create new dishes, such as our mussels served in a Thai Red sauce to our creamy Stilton and Leek mussels.

The mussel may seem like a fairly simple meal to prepare but to get the little mollusc cooked to perfection takes practice and concentration. Once you have perfected it, it is easy to cook using a range of ingredients to create various flavour combinations but getting this initial stage correct is the tricky part. First you must clean and debeard the mussels, those sticky bits we mentioned earlier, and scrape any barnacles off, then rinse them to ensure they are fully clean and free of grit or dirt. If a mussel is closed, or stays closed when you tap it then discard it. An open mussel is a dead one and shouldn’t be eaten. Next, onto cooking the mussel, if you cook it for too long the mussel will become rubbery and tasteless, so make sure you keep an eye on them, once the shell is open the mussel is cooked and, viola you have your meal.

Here at WestBeach we regularly change our mussel offering, but always ensure the dish is sourced as locally as possible, full of flavour and cooked to perfection. Come and join us for a glass of wine, a sea view and a bowl of steaming mussels that will make you feel as if you’re in an exotic location elsewhere.