Cooking seafood can intimidate even the most adventurous of chefs, but Scottish chef Robin Dunlop, who specializes in cooking mussels and oysters wants to change that. He runs Mussel Men, a former pop up, now restaurant and bar that serves up some of up the freshest seafood in East London.
We asked Robin to show us the secret of how to create the delicious French classic, moules marinière - that’s mussels ‘sailor style’ in English.
1 ¼ lb mussels (Robin recommends blue shell mussels)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 stems of celery, with some of the leaves
2 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ cup of water (add if you want a less concentrated stock)
For the mariniere:
Add a drizzle of oil or a cube of butter into a hot pan. Add the chopped shallots, celery, onion and leek.
Give it a stir and let the vegetables soften in the pan for a few minutes.
Crush the garlic cloves using the flat side of a knife and the palm of your hand and add them to the pan.
Add a few sprigs of thyme and the bay leaves (no need to separate the thyme leaves from the stalk as this is a rough and ready dish!).
Soften the onions in the pan for approximately 2 more minutes, until the onions are translucent but not too soft.
Add the wine and the water to the pan, and leave the bouillon to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
While your mariniere is simmering, prep your mussels, removing as much of the stringy ‘beard’ as possible. Be sure to discard any mussels that are already open or cracked.
Put a clean and empty pan on the stove with the heat on and leave to stand for 30 seconds on high heat. Add mussels , leave for 20 seconds, then add 3 ladles of the pre-made mariniere sauce. Put the lid on and steam until all the mussels are open ( about 3-4 minutes).
Tip your mussels and mariniere sauce into a bowl that is deep enough to hold all the liquid. Serve with a few wedges of lemon and some chopped parsley, discarding any closed shells.
Voila - fast food, Mussel Men-style. As well as being delicious, mussels are an inexpensive and environmentally friendly source of seafood (just in case you needed another reason).
Of course, any sailor worth his salt knows how to shuck an oyster, so watch Robin’s foolproof method.
For more about cooking up seafood, meet our latest MarkMaker, chef Chris Fischer. In our MarkMaker guidebook, he shares his style tips, takes us around his farm on Martha’s Vineyard and lets us in on the secret to forging his own path.