Moules Marinéres a la Belge

A real winter treat!

 

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When I smell  black mussels cooked in beer, I am immediately back in old Amsterdam, where one of the better restaurants – quite close to the university – had a little booth in the street outside. There, one of their cooks prepared “Mussels to go”, just like they do at the Sunday market in Brussels. And the delicious smell on a cold, grey winters’ day always made me hungry…

Making this famous dish is not difficult; you need

  • Fresh black mussels (large or jumbo size), count on 1,5 Kg per person;
  • 3 – 4 bottles Belgian beer (NOT the bitter tasting Pilsner type);
  • 500 – 750 gr winter vegetables (depending on the amount of mussels)
    for instance a carrot, some leek, sprigs of celery, onion, chopped but not too finely
  • a large pan to cook them in
    (Tip: If you have to cook a large quantity, cook a fresh batch when the first one is nearly gone…)

Nowadays, only “clean” mussels are sold. If you’re lucky enough to be able to gather them yourself or buy them straight from the ship, you’ll have to clean them first.
Preparing them is easy:
– cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of vegetables
– put in a layer of mussels
– spread another layer of vegetables on top of the mussels
– repeat the process until the pan is full;
(Don’t forget to leave some space between the last layer and the lid!)
– pour in the beer
– put the pan on the cooking range and bring the contents to the boil

11dd960b-9b98-4e44-8795-d723f183024dThe dish is ready when the juice (beer + mussels) is bubbling and the topmost mussels are open . Take the pan from the fire. And now comes the only tricky part:
Put the lid back on the pan, close firmly and shake, to hustle the mussels around, making sure they’re all cooked evenly., then put the pan on the table.

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It is a wonderful finger food!
Use the shells for cutlery – as everyone in Belgium and France does.
Or buy some ‘Mussel cutlery” (see picture) if you can find it!
Serve with a nice crusty “Baguette” , maybe some dipping sauces and of course a well chilled glass of Chardonnay or (Belgian) Beer.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Amsterdam – first promise of spring

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Darkness slowly falls and the old part of Amsterdam ignites its lights and puts on its most alluring face for a quiet night under a clear sky. Smells of delicious food are carried on the wings of a balmy wind from the south that brings the first promise of spring.  The age old buildings look benevolently down on lovers strolling by hand in hand, whispering sweet nothings to each other, embraced by the shadows of this timeless, precious, priceless place…