Mussels, without a shadow of a doubt – are my absolute favourite seafood.
They are full of glorious, meaty flavour. I love how they sound as you swish them around in a pan, the clickity clack as the shells hit the edges.
They look wonderful too – the shells all black and shiny. And amazingly, in Australia anyway, they are super cheap!!!
However, mussels aren’t all fun and games.
The reality is, it takes a fair bit of work to prepare them, and sometimes the rules surrounding whether a mussel is safe to eat or not, can be really confusing.
But, don’t be afraid! Once you get a hang of how to prepare them, cooking is a breeze. The best news is …. Mussels are sooooo worth the effort!
So, here are a few tips to help you prepare mussels.
- Buy them from reputable fish monger.
- Once you get your mussels home, you really need to use them that day for the best results. This is one thing that shouldn’t be stored too long. However, if you can’t prepare them right away – pop them in the fridge. Just make sure you don’t leave them wrapped in plastic – they should be kept in a container and covered lightly with a tea towel, to let them breathe.
- As you are going through your mussels, some of them may be slightly open. Give them a sharp tap on the side of your kitchen sink. If they close tightly, they are fine cook. However – if they don’t – you must throw them away. They are dead and no good to eat.
- To prepare the mussels, give the shells a good scrub to remove any barnacles – I use a rough cleaning pad to do this (a fresh one out of the packet, not one I have used to scrub pots and pans … eewww!).
- Remove the beard (that’s the fibrous thing sticking out of the mussel) – give it a good, strong pull and it should come off.
That’s just about it – now it’s time to cook them and I have a really beautiful recipe that can be used as either a starter or a main. This one is a perfect dish to make your significant other for a romantic dinner – clean the mussels, cut up all the ingredients and cook immediately before serving. You’ll impress your significant other with your cooking skills, but the dish won’t take too long to get on the table. Perfect!
Mussels in white wine, chilli and tomatoes
- 500gm of mussels, cleaned and sorted
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 3 rashers of bacon, cut into strips
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 1 red chilli, finely sliced (or you can add more, if you like it really hot)
- 1 cup of white wine
- 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 handful of basil, roughly torn
Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-based pan.
Cook the bacon, until it’s getting slightly crisp – then add the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat until onion is soft.
Turn up the heat and add the wine, allowing it to simmer briskly for a minute or two.
Add the canned tomatoes and once they start to simmer. Add the mussels.
Cover and cook for a minute or two, or until the mussels have opened (it doesn’t take long – and this is how you tell they are ready). Add the fresh basil and serve.
Important: As you serve the dish into bowls, ensure that you discard any unopened mussels. If they are closed, then they are no good.
If you are cooking this as a main course, toss through some freshly cooked pasta at the end. If not, just serve the mussels as they are, with some fresh sourdough bread to mop up all those awesome juices.
A romantic dish deserves a matching song with it. This song is by an Australian artist called Sia and featured on the Twilight Saga Eclipse soundtrack. It’s the song playing in the background when Edward asks Bella to marry him. A little corny, I know – but a very romantic moment and a truly amazing song. Google Sia and check out the rest of her music, she has an amazing voice.
Sia – My Love
If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. Also, if you have any other tips for cooking mussels or seafood in general – I’d love to hear from you!
It’s so freezing outside that I thought I should share with you a soup recipe that has become one of my all-time favourites. I adore leeks and seeing as they are in season, now is an ideal time to whip this up. I really didn’t like the idea of chickpeas in soup at first – but although it only has a few ingredients, the flavour is amazing. I originally saw this made on a Jamie Oliver cooking show way back when. I’ve made it my own and no longer need the recipe to guide me. Everyone I have served it to has been impressed 🙂
So – introducing …
Leek and Chickpea Soup
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 4 leeks
- 3 desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
- 1.5 – 2 litres of chicken stock
- Parmesan cheese (to serve, but optional)
Cut leeks down the middle, discarding the tough green part at the top, and clean thoroughly under running water. Chop fairly finely.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add leeks and a few good pinches of salt. The salt will not only add flavour, but allow the leeks to wilt, without colouring. This should take about five minutes over a medium heat – ensure you keep an eye on it and stir regularly.
Add the potatoes, along with the chickpeas and cook until heated through. Add stock at this point – enough to generously cover the mixture.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potato cubes are tender.
Remove from heat and using a stick mixer (or blender), blitz the ingredients, but leave some chunky bits.
Blitzing ensures the soup is beautiful and creamy, but leaving some chunky bits of chickpea and leek means there is really nice texture too. However, feel free to blitz to a smooth consistency if that’s what you prefer.
Bring back to the simmer – now you can judge whether more stock needs to be added. Just add more until the texture is to your liking. Make sure you have a taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve drizzled with some olive oil and shavings of parmesan cheese.
This soup really is a meal in a bowl and also makes a fantastic lunch. You can freeze it too, if you want – but I find this one disappears out of the fridge pretty quickly!
My Groovy Kitchen Tunes track for this warm, nutty soup would have to be Dark Storm, by The Jezebels. Its title is reflective of our weather here in Victoria at the moment, but there’s something warming and hopeful about it at the same time. Curl up on the couch tonight in front of the TV, pop a blanket over you and enjoy this soup and just think, the weekend is nearly here!! Sounds like a perfect Wednesday night to me 🙂
I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world, but here it’s delivering mostly sunny days, but the evenings have inherited that true winter chill we haven’t felt for a while here in southern Australia.
While this is a cue for most people to pull out their fluffy ugg boots, cardigans and to curl up and watch TV with a nice warm blanket over your lap – for me, it’s also about cooking really yummy soups. Mostly, I take them to work for lunch, because I generally have a decent appetite at dinner time and really want something substantial. However, this chicken soup is a true meal.
With cooler weather comes colds and flues, and if you haven’t heard, chicken soup has wonderful medicinal, anti-inflamatory properties. All the more reason to get into the kitchen this weekend and cook up a nice big batch. This recipe will give you four to six large serves. It’s healthy, warming and completely delish!
Most of us have a long weekend ahead (Happy Easter, by the way!!) so now is a great time to get in the kitchen and do some cook ups. Don’t forget to check out these other fabulous recipes which will help you fill your freezer.
It’s Monday afternoon and you’ve got no idea what to cook for dinner tonight … this chargrilled squid salad is the answer.
If you don’t have the ingredients at home – then you only need to stop by two sections of the supermarket to get everything you need. You’ll be in and through the check-out in no more than 10 minutes. I think this is crucial because the supermarket pit-stop on weekdays, for me anyway, is one I dread. I just want to get home and start cooking and relaxing!
The flavours here are fresh and yummy, and the avocado really gives it a comforting creaminess – without the guilt!
CHARGRILLED SQUID SALAD
- 300gm of squid tubes, cleaned
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- the juice of ½ a lime
- 2 very ripe avocados
- 1-2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of chopped coriander
- ½ a red onion, finely chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- juice of 2 limes
Squeeze the avocados out of their skins into a bowl, removing the stones. Add most of the chilli and coriander, the onion, tomato and lime juice. Mix everything up with a spoon, hacking up any bigger bits of avocado as you go. Have a taste to check the balance, and season with salt and pepper.
Put a griddle pan on a high heat to get nice and hot. For the squid tubes put the knife in the tube and cut through the side, open it out then lightly score every ½cm in a criss-cross fashion with a blunt knife. This means the squid will curl up and absorb extra flavour.
Season the squid with a pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil then toss to coat. Add it to the hot griddle, scored-side down, for 1 to 2 minutes. Use tongs to turn the squid over once it has nice char marks. Give it a minute on the other side until it curls up then immediately transfer to a bowl. While the squid is still piping hot, add a really good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, the lime juice and another small pinch of salt and pepper.
Spoon the avocado salad onto a platter. Cut the squid into bite-sized chunks. Pile the squid over the salad and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Scatter over the reserved coriander and chilli.
This dish looks so pretty. I know it’s Monday, but why not light some candles, pour some wine and sit down with you partner and pretend it’s the weekend!
Today my wonderful friend Ruza and I decided to do something BIG! We are going to join foodie forces and apply to be on the next series of My Kitchen Rules. But, we need your help to get noticed!!
Read our story below, and then we would be so grateful if you would jump onto the MKR forum and place a post on there asking the producers to have an extra special look at our application. The more support we can get, the better! Don’t forget to pop a link to this blog (http://www.uforicfood.wordpress.com) on your post – so they know who you’re talking about.
So what’s led Ruza and I to apply to be on the show? This is our story …
Lots of people have said to me due to my hopeless obsession with cooking, that I should go on Masterchef. I always scoffed at them. Me, on TV?! Don’t be ridiculous! I don’t even do desserts! But, I saw the ad on TV last night and I thought to myself why not? It could be a lot of fun and a really cool life experience!
But, I had to find someone who I could cook well with. Someone I trust and who would complement my cooking skills. I had to look no further then Ruza.
Food has always brought the two of us together – ever since we met at work in 2008. We have shared many chats about different dishes we have cooked, ingredients we have found and we enjoy catching up regularly for dinner parties.
While I love cooking entrees and mains – Ruza is the Dessert Queen. Not only is her background very multicultural – a Croatian raised in Norway, marrying a Persian – but she’s always trying out new recipes and makes creations I could only dream of achieving. She has been my number one support when it comes to my crazy food blogging and for that – I love her very much!
We have grown very close over the years – so much so that she has even asked me to be one of her bridesmaids at her wedding!! Let’s just hope she’ll still have me after all the excitement and stress of MKR (if we make it, that is!). I can be very bossy, you know 🙂
We are always there for each other, whether it’s me needing life advice or Ruza needing a curry recipe. I know if we make it onto My Kitchen Rules – we’ll make a fabulous team!!
The next port of call is to make a 3-minute video to tell the people at MKR why we should go on the show. Any ideas? It looks like we will be filming it tomorrow evening – with the cut-off date of Sunday midnight fast approaching!
We want the video to not only represent us – but our state as well. Let’s face it – Victoria hasn’t done so well in this competition so far and we really hope we can do something about it!
Ruza lives in the city – with the Vic Market and other awesome places to buy ingredients all around her. Me? Well I am in foodie heaven too – on the Bellarine Peninsula. It’s becoming famous for its olive oil, wines, pick-you-own strawberries and saffron is even grown five minutes down the road from my home. Let’s not forget the fabulous seafood, including mussels from Portarlington. We are a classic pair of city meets surf and we have the cooking skills to showcase it to the rest of the country.
Leave your ideas in the comments section below and don’t forget to visit the MKR Forum and put in a good word for us!
I know – it’s a long shot – but you’ve got to give these things a try. You only get one shot at life, after all!
Eggplant is in season and so it’s time to start thinking of some creative ways of serving it.
A lot of people don’t really like eggplant, or aubergine as it is known is some places, all that much. I used to be one of them. It can be bitter if not treated to a nice sprinkling of sea salt, and if you under-cook it, it’s gonna have a funny, squeaky texture.
How do I like it best? Well, while I do love it in curries because its spongy flesh really soaks up all the flavours – You can’t go past it in a dip known as Baba ghanouj.
It is an Arab dish and in some parts is served as an appetizer while in others they like it as a side-dish or salad.
With eggplants plentiful, why not give this recipe a go. This one is inspired by SBS Food Safari – the Lebanese episode. It’s creamy, delicious and very good for you!
- 2-3 medium sized eggplant
- 1½ tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
Grill whole eggplant over a gas flame, turning with tongs until the skin is evenly toasted. Soak in cold water for about 10 min to cool.
When cool, completely peel the eggplants and drain for 15-20 min. Place into a food processor with tahini, lemon, garlic and salt and process again until well combined and creamy.
Place the mixture in a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little paprika.
The recipe suggested finishing at the end with a chopped tomato and some parsley. Feel free to add it if you have it on hand.
Remember to also taste the dip before you serve it – the lemon, salt and tahini may need tweaking to suit your tastes.
I’ve also had some trouble in the past actually finding tahini. I always find it in the health food section at the supermarket. I’m sure you can get it from health food shops too. It’s basically a sesame seed paste – very strong in flavour – but very yummy 🙂