By PATRICK STUART firstname.lastname@example.org
Mussels have been readily available from supermarket fish counters here in Portugal for many years, but they have never really been a favourite of the Portuguese, the clam being the mollusc of choice for most. But this probably has something to with the poor quality of locally-farmed mussels to be found … until recently that is.
Today there are huge mussel beds out in the ocean off Sagres, and along the coast near Olhão, and the quality to be found is comparable to France, the UK or wherever.
I remember buying mussels from the supermarkets here years ago only to end up throwing them away, so tiny and shrivelled up were the contents of the shell.
But today, order them in a seafood restaurant in Sagres or in Olhão and they will be as plump and juicy as those in the photo here, which incidentally were farmed in Spain and found their way into my shopping basket at Intermarché Lagoa on Sunday.
They are such versatile seafood, delicious with traditional Mediterranean flavours and even more exciting when spiced up with some Indian or Thai spices and chilli.
For simple moules marinière, slice up loads of onions and soften in butter with a few lightly crushed cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Once the onions start to turn golden, deglaze the pan with a glass of white wine and stir in some cooking cream, loads of freshly crushed black pepper, a pinch of salt and some chopped parsley. Bring to the boil to cook off the alcohol then throw in the (cleaned and de-bearded) mussels and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. It will take around five minutes to steam them open.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with more fresh parsley and black pepper.
Good, fresh crusty bread to mop up the sauce is an essential part of the dish.