As I am typing this, there's a fair amount of nervous energy bubbling away. You see, today is the today I get to hold my cookbook for the first time. After over a year of solid work and a lifetime of dreaming this, I get to hold it. Waiting for the courier feels like when I was in early labour wiht Haruki...You know it's soon, but the suspense is too much. In this moments I cook, or bake or eat. When I was in labour, I baked bread – it's the only way I knew how to sort-of unwind and take my mind off things...
Today it's Mussels and chips or Moules Frite. I planned for this lunch – I went to the market the day before and bought a kilo of mussels, made sure I had enough potatoes and set it all aside until today, when I would need something to take my mind off the wait. EDIT: The courier arrived at 5.30pm (!!) The book is so beautiful, I will share more soon!
On mussels...Buy really fresh ones. Cover them with cold water. Any that stay open, are cracked or look a little suspicious, throw them away. Scrub them clean and remove the beard by pulling it towards the widest part of the shell and yanking it out.
Serves 2 generously or 4 modestly
1kg mussels, scrubbed clean, beard removed
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Large handful of parsley, roughly chopped
200ml Sake or white wine
A few tablespoons of cream
Fennel fronds to serve, optional
For the chips
4 medium waxy potatoes, scrubbed
Vegetable oil, for frying
1. For the chips, slice the potatoes into 2cm slices then cut into 2-3cm batons. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water for 5 minutes. This will remove any excess starch and help with crispiness. Drain and pat dry.
2. Heat a pot filled with vegetable oil to 160C. Deep fry in batches until cooked, but not golden. Drain on a wire rack or absorbent paper and set aside. Meanwhile, bring the oil temperature to 180C.
3. While the oil is heating for a second time, place the mussels, garlic, parsley and sake or white wine into a large pot or pan. Place over a high heat and cover with a lid. As soon as the mussels are open, pour in the cream and stir to coat. Take off the heat and keep warm.
4. Meanwhile, fry the chips for a second time in the hotter oil until golden and crispy. Season with salt. Scatter the fennel fronds, if using, over the mussels, and serve with the chips. You shouldn't need to season the mussels, as the cooking liquor should be salty enough.
Making a second meal...If there is a lot of liquid left in the pot, you can make it into a broth for a second meal. Top up the pot with around 1 L of water and add in some roughly chopped potatoes and carrots. Simmer, covered for 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Scatter in a few handfuls of fregola, or rice, and continue to simmer until thick and the pasta or rice is cooked. Season to taste, top with a drizzle of olive oil and extra chopped parsley. Any left over mussels could also be added into the broth at the end.