Mussels without a doubt are one of the iconic dishes of Belgian cuisine and you can’t be in Belgium during mussel season (September-February) and not see how proudly restaurants are offering this healthy and delicious ingredient.
The most traditional way of preparation in Belgium will be “moules mariniere”, made with white wine, butter and herbs. Simple and delicious. Exposing all the best qualities of this seafood. Of course, when you are preparing mussels home, you can play with spices and herbs as much as you want. Here is my take on mussels and visual inspiration how to eat them like Belgians do.
Ingredients for 2 people
- 2kg mussels (seems a lot?? trust me, quite a few will need to be discarded during cleaning process. at least the ones that I have bought here were like that)
- 1 onion, peeled, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- herbs (i use parsley, dill and alike)
- 400ml white wine or stock of your preference
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 3 celery sticks, chopped
- salt, pepper, paprika + any additional spices you like
- 3 – 4 big or 8 small potatoes
Step by step preparation
- it is SUPER-important to be meticulous during mussel cleaning process as bad mussels will give you food poisoning (and those who have had food poisoning, know that it is no fun at all). so, when you open mussels, run them under cold water. meanwhile prepare another bowl with cold water and add some salt for cleaned mussels.
- now get rid of all the mussels that are broken, chipped or cracked.
- now look at the mussels that are a bit open. There are 2 scenarios. Either the mussel is dead and then: get rid of it. Or.. it is alive and just sleeping… the way to test it is to tap with a knife on the mussel and if it closes, it is still alive.
- now clean off all the beard from mussels and leave them in the cold water whilst you prepare everything else.
- wash them. cut the big potatoes in wedges. if you are using the small kind, don’t bather doing anything to them
- put the potatoes in a preheated oven (200C) sprinkle with olive oil and salt. you can add some dried herbs if you wish so
- bake them for the time you prepare everything else (normally 20-30 minutes give you extremely delicious potato snack)
Stock for mussels
- chop all the herbs, onion, garlic, tomatoes and celery
- heat up the oil in a big saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic, then add celery, tomatoes and spices and cook until soft… it takes me approximately 5-7 minutes. and don’t be afraid to use quite a lot of spices to bring your stock up to “another level”. safran, thyme, basil… you like it? use it!
- now add wine or stock (you can also use water, red wine, I imagine even beer would work) and let it heat up to boiling point.
- now get rid of the water where the mussels were in and add all the mussels to the saucepan. now put a lid on it and wait…
- it is good if you have a lid with holes in it as what you need to do now is to see the vapor coming out. usually this is after 7-10 minutes.
- when you see the vapor steaming out, take your saucepan and whirl and shake it to cover mussels with the delicious stock that has all the spices working
- open the lid and check if all the mussels are all open, take the potatoes out of the oven and serve!!!
How to eat mussels
The way of eating mussels in Belgium is truly a hands-on approach. If you don’t mind to get messy and enjoy mussels in a new way, try this! I know I do!