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Mussels: How to Clean and Steam'em

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Mussels: How to Clean and Steam'em

Mussels have got a lot going for them. Not only are they inexpensive, quick to prepare, downright tasty and a great with frites; they also come with green credentials.

Most of the mussels we eat these days are cultivated on ropes, are environmentally benign and one of the proteins with the lowest carbon foot print.

Now we’ve got a clear conscience, time to get cooking mussels.

How to prepare mussels for the pot

Cleaning mussels is your first step to ensuring a tasty end result. Some diligence applied here is going to pay off when it comes to enjoying your bowl of steamed moules – minus grit and beards.

Sort through the mussels tapping any that are slightly open, if the mussel shows signs of closing up this means it’s still alive and therefore good to eat. If it remains open, or is damaged, throw it out. A rank smell will give a strong warning signal that any mussels are off. Pull off the beard, and scrape any barnacles off using the back of a knife then rinse.

Rick Stein a seasoned sea food professional hailing from the coastal town of Padstow in Cornwall, South of England explains all in this neat clip:

Now for the Steaming

Put a pot on the stove with a small amount of liquid from the mussels. Turn the heat right up, add a splash of wine or water and get some steam going. At this point you can add chopped shallots if you choose. Then in go mussels – and on goes the lid for about a minute.  Lift the lid off and give the mussels a quick stir or a vigorous shake – most should open- turn them over and take them off the heat. Put them through the colander to drain off the juice.  Now the mussels are ready to use in your desired recipe (See below)

The Mussel Myth: Is it an open and shut case?

Which leads us to our final point and the long held mussel myth.  'Throw away any mussels that refuse to open' after cooking, we are consistently advised by cookbooks, an instruction that has reportedly snowballed since the 1970s. According to Nick Ruello, a mussel expert and fisheries biologist, this advice has stuck as tightly as a barnacle. After extensive personal research he has found the myth unfounded. Check out the details over at ABC Science,The best way to check the safety of mussels is to check them thorougly before you cook them he advises.

Apparantly we throw out a staggering 370 tonnes of stubborn mussels a year that have refused to open during cooking at a worth of around $3 million. 

Mussel Recipe

For a tasty way to enjoy your cooked mussels with a crispy gratin on top try this stuffed mussel recipe.

If you're enjoying your mullusc trivia you might like to see the world's biggest oyster weighing a whopping 2 kilos (4.4lbs.)

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