Smart staples: Mussels
Inexpensive, quick to prepare and nutritious, mussels are a clever buy.
Mussels are sold and cooked live as they go off very quickly. Make sure they have been kept over ice or in very cold running water. Their shells should be glistening and avoid any cracked or dry shells.
These are best cooked on the day you buy them. Keep them in the bottom of the fridge, covered with a damp cloth.
Sort mussels by gently tapping any that are open. This is called the percussion test. If they close they are alive but you should throw away any that stay open as this means they are dead.
Before cooking, mussels must be washed and scrubbed clean with a brush to remove any dirt, beards or barnacles.
- Simple steaming: Place 3/4 cup water in a pan and turn heat to high. Add mussels, cover with a lid and shake. When steam is escaping, check to see if the mussels are open. This means they are ready. Discard any that are still shut. Add flavour — fresh herb sprigs, sliced garlic, chilli or lemon slices — to the cooking water.
- Garlic mussels: Gently fry finely chopped shallots with crushed garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup wine and thyme sprigs then bring to the boil. Reduce heat and add mussels. Cover and steam until mussels open. Serve with crusty bread and freshly chopped parsley. Add to spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, rocket and fresh parmesan cheese shavings or add to a herb risotto.
Low in iron?
Mussels contain around four times the amount of iron of a steak. Just six mussels have more than 10mg iron.