With a Parisian guest in tow, M night's menu seemed to find itself falling naturally into a French themed affair and what better way to celebrate the French in the letter M than with the ultimate classic: Moules Marinière.
Richard, as I may have said once or twice before, is allergic to fish. He is not allergic to shellfish, molluscs or crustaceans, it's just that he has always tended to avoid eating things that reside in the sea, hanging out with all the fish. Because of this, he'd never eaten mussels before M night. And he really wasn't looking forward to it. Not one bit. When the mussels were dished up and he tasted his first bite, his face lit up and we barely heard a peep out of him until every last bite had been scoffed and the last remains of the soupy broth had been slurped and soaked up with bread. I was delighted by this, as was he, and the Moules Marinière turned out to be Richard's favourite dish of the evening. What's more, I've seen him order mussels in restaurants since and, as such, I can't help but feel a warm glow that Alphabet Soup opened Richard up to a new flavour experience that he absolutely loves.
Maldon salt topped malted muffins
1 tsp caster sugar
215 ml warm water
3/4 sachet of fast-acting yeast
15oz/ 375g Strong malted blend bread flour
1 tsp salt
2tbsp olive oil
Maldon salt crystals
Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C Fan)
Stir the sugar into 75ml of the water, add the yeast, stir again and leave to stand for a few minutes. In the meantime, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre of the flour. Pour the oil into the centre of the well and then pour in the yeast mixture and most of the remaining water and mix until a soft but not sticky, loose dough, adding the remaining the water if needed. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, springy and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for an hour or two or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen knock the air out of it by giving it a firm punch and then knead the dough again and then leave to rest for another ten minutes or so. Form the dough into small balls and place each ball in a lightly oiled hole in a muffin tray. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to double in size in a warm place (I always prove bread in my airing cupboard). Brush the top of each muffin with egg wash and sprinkle their tops with salt. Bake for 20 minutes before turning the oven temperature down to 200°C (180°C Fan) and leave to continue baking for another 5-10 minutes or until the bread is well risen, golden and the base of the muffins sound hollow when tapped. Cool the muffins on a wire rack before serving.
3 kilos of mussels
9oz/ 225 g butter
10 shallots, very finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 large glasses of dry white wine
2 tbsp plain flour and 2 tbsp butter mixed together to form a paste
A large bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 pint double cream
You'll need an enormous pan for this weight of mussels - I used a preserving pan and covered the top with foil.
Wash the mussels thoroughly in cold water, trimming off any "beards" or barnacles and discard any open shells. Melt the butter and tip in the shallots and garlic, season and leave to soften, cooking over a very gentle heat - this will take at least 20 to 30 minutes. Once completely soft, add the white wine to the shallots, turn the heat up to a medium flame and leave the liquid to reduce by half. Tip in the mussels and pop a lid on (or a big sheet of foil in my case). Leave the mussels to cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until their shells have opened. Remove the mussels from the sauce using a slotted spoon and transfer them to a large warm serving bowl and cover with foil. Crank the heat up under the mussel juice and once boiling whisk in the flour paste, whisking constantly for a couple of minutes or so. Finally add the parsley and cream and stir through. Pour the sauce over the mussels and serve with the malted muffins.