Tuesday, 4 October 2011

a dinner to remember (starters)

This weekend I had 6 friends over for dinner, I had never cooked a proper meal for them before so thought I better make it special so for Starters I decided on mussels in a creamy cider broth for the fish eaters, and  for the   non fish eaters chicken wings 4 ways. This was followed by a basil, lime and mint sorbet. For the main course I made steak and guinness pie and for those with room left for dessert I made sticky toffee pudding with baileys ice cream. If I was ever to go on come dine with me I think this would be my menu I guess its my interpretation of what Irish food is about.

Today I'll give my recipe for the mussels. I decided I wanted the freshest mussels I could find so I took my niece Kate out to Morningtown with our trusty green bucket to collect some, unfortunately the weather has been unusually warm this Autumn so much to Kates disappointmet the mussels never showed up. I wasn't quite as disappointed as I knew the local fishmonger always has good quality mussels.

Well thats enough talking about the mussels I better give the recipe before people start getting impatient. As with any great recipe i'll start with the ingredients, for this recipe you will need:

1 kg of mussels (about 12 mussels per person is a good starter portion)
4 smokey bacon rashers, diced
1 leek
4 carrots
2 celery stalks
8 shallots or 1 onion
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 lemon
1pint chicken stock
1 pint of cider
75ml cream
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper.

The main component of a delicious mussel dish is a delicious broth and this one is certainly that.
We start by frying our bacon to get it nice and crispy, when done remove from the pan and start frying the shallots in the bacon fat adding the bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper to get some seasoning into the shallots early. After sweating the onions for about 5 minutes add the garlic,celery, carrots and leek. Fry the vegetables for another 5 minutes adding the thyme and half the paprika during cooking. we now add the cider and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes, add a squeeze of the lemon juice to taste.
If you want to spend more time with your guests you can  cook to this stage earlier in the day or as I done the day before.

Before you add your mussels to the stock make sure they are well cleaned and all the beards carefully removed. throw away any dead mussels that won't stay closed. I find a good way to check if a mussel is dead  is to close it with your fingers then gently tap the mussel with another mussel, if it doesn't stay closed then it is more than likely dead. If you cooked your stock before hand bring it back to a simmer, add the cream then add the mussels. cook for about 4 minutes then dish up and serve with a nice crusty bread.

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