Mussel and Bacon Stew

We recently received a lovely gift of mussels and crab legs, fresh from the Atlantic ocean from my brother-in-law. My children were fascinated by the mussels and my son thought the crab legs were the coolest thing ever! All this excitement lead to many questions so now having done some research, I’m passing what I learnt on to you.
Rope-grown farmed mussels are available all year, sold in supermarket chiller cabinets, ready-shelled. But wild mussels come into season when there’s an “R” in the month. The most common European mussels have shiny shells and tender, juicy flesh. Fresh mussels should smell of the sea and be tightly closed, those fresh from the sea will have seaweed and barnacles attached to their shells, where as rope grown mussels will have clean shells. Some mussels will open as you wash them, if you are unsure if they are alive or dead, gently tap the shell, it should close within 20 seconds. They need to be thoroughly cleaned and eaten on the day you buy them as they are very perishable.

Serves 4

3kg Mussels
600g Small salad potatoes (I used peeled and cubed roosters instead)
200g Bacon, finely diced or lardons
3tbsp Butter
2 Onions, chopped
150g Carrots,peeled and finely chopped
1 Bunch spring onions, finely chopped
700ml Chicken stock
1 Bay leaf
Parsley, chopped

Sort the mussels and discard any that are broken or open. Rinse them thoroughly in running water, this will reduce the amount of sand in your cooking pot.

Scrub the mussels under running water and pull (or cut) away beards.

Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling, salted water for 25 – 30 minutes or until tender.

Drain and set aside. Fry the bacon in a dry, non-stick pan until crispy. Set aside. Melt the butter in a very large saucepan and fry the onions until translucent. Add the carrots and spring onions and sweat with the lid on until just tender.

Stir in the chicken stock. Season and bring to the boil. Add the mussels to the pan, cover and cook over and high heat for 8 minutes, shaking the pan every so often, until the mussels have opened and cooked (discard any that do not open). Add the potatoes, bacon and some chopped parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve with bread to soak up the juices.

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