Look for Irish mussels, ideally grown organically. Keep an eye out for mussels that have been grown in a Special Area of Conservation (S.A.C.) designated under the European Union Habitats Directive as being a vital area of environmental significance.
The first thing to do with a mussel is plunge them into a bath of cold water and give them a good scrub. Pull off their beards and discard any that don't close after a good tap on the shell.
Mussels welcome any flavour that pairs well with seafood, so think garlic, shallot, fennel. If you want to go down an Asian route, consider ginger, garlic and chilli.
The liquid that you use to cook mussels in will most often become a dipping sauce for some yummy bread, so consider the liquid carefully. Wine or stock is always a good idea.
Simmer, don't boil your mussels. This gentle seafood needs a gentle cooking method.
Always pop a lid on your mussels to create steam, which will add extra flavour and prevent you from losing any of your precious aromatics from the pot.
Mussels in white wine sauce
This classic mussel dish is rich, creamy and full of delicate, herby flavour - serve with a big bowl of crispy chips
Preparation Time15 mins
Cooking Time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
1.8kg (4 lbs) scrubbed mussels, weighed in their shells
2 tsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped spring onions
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
1 tsp chopped chives
2 tsp chopped fennel
225ml dry white wine
Check that all the mussels are tightly closed and wash well in several changes of water. Steam open on a medium heat with the wine, herbs and spring onions.
Take the mussels out of the pan just as soon as the shells open. Remove the 'beard' and one shell from each.
Serve with crispy chips and a green salad.
Note: They can be kept at this stage for some time, even for a day or two in the fridge, as long as they sit in the cooking liquid.