This recipe, so simple, was a mainstay of my early days in the helter-skelter world of restaurants. A plate of mussels, doused with plenty of butter and herbs, and whacked under the grill until the butter had melted and all the additions had become soul mates with the mussels.
Much later, as the restaurant became (a little) more sophisticated, the mix of mussels, butter, almonds and chillies become the star of what we called, with little regard for pomp, “a mussel bag”. The mussels were encased in a thin crepe, the edges drawn together, and tied up with a chive or two. It was as far away from nouvelle cuisine as apples are from oranges.
TMix+ is more about simplicity, and to us mussels are one of the great delights that the sea dishes up: whether farmed or ripped from the rocks, they are truly authentic, unchanged for millennia.
They’re also wonderful for cooks who can’t, or won’t cook. Try as we have, being many times distracted, we’ve never managed to slaughter a mussel. Generally, it’s been a case of tossing them into a pot, putting on the lid, and waiting for them to open, generally about five minutes. The Varoma—temperature and platform—does just the same and drops the milk from the mussels into the bowl for use on another day. However, we suggest that only “roped on” Thermomix users would prefer to cook the mussels in the Varoma—the pot method, lid on, until they open, offers plenty of control to the cooking, and is quicker, and the Varoma has a maximum capacity of one kilogram of mussels.
No matter how we are using mussels, I cook them first, and then remove the “rope” that holds the mussel to its “home” in the sea; others will rip the “rope” away first and leave the mussels in the shell. As with so many recipes, there is neither right nor wrong, just your choice.
The beauty of this dish is that we achieved two dishes from the one spurt of energy: the butter and almond mix is not just a wonderful partner for mussels in the shell, but also tossed through fresh pappardelle, just another mix of flour and eggs that is so easy to make in the Thermomix.
We made the pappardelle using a classic roller pasta machine, but for those who reckon the pasta machine is just one too many machines in an already cluttered kitchen, it’s no great chore to roll out the pasta with a rolling pin, and slice it into the form of pasta you enjoy. This method, after all, has been the Italian way for generations of pasta makers.
- Chop the almonds roughly 2 seconds/speed 10. Check. They should not be powdered, nor chunky but somewhere in between If necessary, chop again 1 second/speed 10 to get them to that in-between stage. Set aside.
- Whizz the garlic, basil, chilli, lemon juice and zest, and the almonds, 5 seconds/speed 10.
- Add the butter and whizz 5 seconds/speed 6, then scrape down and whizz again 10 seconds/speed 2 until it forms a clump. Remove, and refrigerate. (This makes 210 grams of basil/butter almond mix, which also forms the basis of the sauce for the pappardelle.)
- Without cleaning, add water, and heat through 3 minutes/Varoma/speed 1. (You can also boil water separately if you prefer.)
- Once the water has boiled, put Varoma in place, put the mussels on the tray, and cook 10 minutes/Varoma/speed 1, or until the mussels open. You may retain the liquid for another day (add to fish stock, if so inclined), otherwise discard.
- Taking care, remove the Varoma, and allow the mussels to cool. Once cool, remove the mussels from the shell, breaking any “rope”, that strange piece of inedible equipment that holds the mussels to their retaining wall, or pier or rocky outcrop, or holding rope, and retain the half shells.
- On a baking tray, add the mussels to the half shells, two per shell, and cover with the butter/basil mixture. Bake in a 200C oven for 8 minutes, or until the butter is sizzling, while being absorbed by the almond meal. When done, the mussels will still be concealed by the mixture.
- Serve simply, with bread to wipe up any butter and almond mixture left in the shells. This works just as effectively with scallops on the half shell
AND … an even simpler result comes from chopping 75 grams of almonds coarsely with a heavy knife, and kneading 150 grams of butter with the basil, garlic, chilli and lemon juice with the chopped almonds, topping the mussels with the mixture, and bake until the butter melts. This is obviously more to do with the butter than the almonds, whereas the Thermomix version highlights the flavour and texture of the almonds.