dimanche 17 juin 2007

Moules marinières

‘Moules frites’ is a traditional Belgian dish. It does not refer to fried mussels but to mussels served with fries. The restaurant chain Léon de Bruxelles (www.leon-de-bruxelles.fr) does a brisk business in Paris serving mussels in ‘cocottes individuelles’. This is my idea of fast food – something that is quick to prepare and tastes good not the products served at the ubiquitous American chains which are becoming all too present in Paris.

Mussels take a little time to clean but only a few minutes to cook. To clean them – scrub the shells with a brush to remove and sand and adherences. Immediately before using, remove the beard (byssus threads that protrude from the side of the shell) by pulling with your fingers or cutting with a knife. Throw out any broken shells and any mussels that do not close when sharply tapped.
Also discard any that do not open after cooking.

Moules marinières
Serves 4

60g (4 Tbsp) butter
2 onions, chopped
2kg (4 lbs) mussels, cleaned
400mL (1-1/2 cups) dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 branch fresh thyme
200mL (3/4 cup) crème fraîche or sour cream
60g (4 Tbsp) fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook to soften, stirring frequently to prevent colouring. Add the mussels, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Cover the pot and increase the heat to high for 5-8 minutes, shaking the pot from time to time, just until the mussels open. Throw out any mussels that did not open.

Remove the mussels from the pot, place in a bowl and filter the liquid through a sieve. Reheat the sauce in a pot. Add the crème fraîche or sour cream, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide the mussels between 4 bowls and pour over the sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Provide a finger bowl and bowl for the shells.
Serve with slices of baguette.

mercredi 6 juin 2007

Date and Orange Loaf

This week’s blog posting is a little late as I was distracted by watching the tennis at Roland Garros and taking a trip to Luxembourg to accept a new job. I will be writing about Luxembourg in future blogs.

Date and Orange Loaf is an easy to make and transport quick bread . It was inspired when a friend brought me a box of dates from Algeria. I don’t eat a lot of dates and didn’t want them to go bad. It is a perfect breakfast treat to prepare in advance when you have guests too.

Date and Orange Loaf
Makes 1 - 23 x 13 cm (9x5-inch ) loaf
250 mL (1 cup) chopped pitted dates
185 mL (3/4 cup) boiling water
5 mL (1 tsp) baking soda
1 small orange, cut in 6 pieces, seeded
375 mL (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
250 mL (1 cup) nuts (optional)
185 mL (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
30 mL (2 tbsp) butter, cut in 4 pieces
5 mL (1 tsp) salt

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F)

Combine dates, water and baking soda in small bowl; set aside. Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Place orange pieces in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; process about 15 seconds. Add flour, nuts, sugar, eggs, butter, salt and half the date mixture; process 5 seconds to mix. Add remaining date mixture; process about 15-20 seconds until well mixed. Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 55 -65 minutes until loaf springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool for 10 minutes. Loosen sides with knife and remove from pan.