Wednesday, April 20, 2005

R is for Mussels

Creamy (distinctly not cholesterol friendly) fish pie

I went for a cholesterol checkup a few days ago. In preparation I was to feast ... sorry, I mean FAST ... for the evening. For a kind of send off, and knowing that this is last month that we can have mussels, we had some delicious fish pie last night.

It's April, so, in theory, the last month to enjoy good mussels until October. This is based on the Month with an R rule. The reason for this old adage is simply that this group of shellfish tend to spawn thereby losing succulence, relatively empty etc. Steingarten, in his great essay, “Hot Dog” mentions that one in every two thousand servings of raw molluscs is likely to cause illness. Limiting consumption to the R months reduces the likelihood of Vibrio Vulnificus infection (exaggerated by warmer water).

I cooked from Nigel Slater's Appetite.

The ingredients (for 4-6) as follows:
-smoked haddock
-cod (little addition here – I’d been recommended to use white fish to balance the smoked haddock)
-white wine
-milk (500ml)
-butter (50g)
-plain flour - 4tbsp
-parsley - chopped
-potatoes for mashing
-salt and pepper

The directions are fairly straightforward. Cover the mussels with wine and bring to the boil. Let them steam for one or two minutes until all the mussels are open. It is best to cook them shallow (in a single layer on a shallow pan) in order to pick cooked ones out from the rest. Sieve the wine to collect it and make sure there is no grit in the sauce. Take the mussels from their shells.

Bring the haddock and cod to boil in milk (with as much water needed to cover the fish). Leave to simmer for a few minutes until the fish comes away from the skin easily. Take the saucepan off the heat.

Make the mash (see cottage pie), use some of the haddock liquor to the mash.

Make a roux with the butter (melted) by adding flour and stirring over a moderate heat until it is biscuit coloured and nutty. The addition of the mussel and 500ml of the haddock milk will convert this from a roux to a veloute. Leave to simmer; stirring over 10 minutes to ensure it doesn't stick.

Skin the fish and add to the sauce with the mussels and parsley (chopped). Season this with pepper and salt. Put all of this into a dish and put the mash on top (don't worry if it sinks a little - that's life).

Preheat the oven to 200c and heat until the top is crusty and the sauce bubbling up around the edges. You'll need a spoon to serve!

creamy fish pie and some nice product placement - i wonder when i'll get my first sponsorship deal?

I was a little disappointed just now to read in Leith's techniques bible that crustaceans have very high cholesterol and are best avoided by those with hereditary conditions ... oh well, you can't have everything. From now on I’ll just look for the crustaceans that lead a healthy life and eat those.

Naturally, this will be my excuse if the results come back high.


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