Borough Market Challenge #1: Mussels with Chilli & Samphire
For the first time since I started my ‘Student Suppers’ column over two years ago, I want to introduce you today to a new column here on Rachel Phipps: ‘Borough Market Challenge’. The premise is simple. Each morning I visit London’s famous Borough Market and I have a free afternoon I’m going to buy a little of what looks good, what is seasonal or what I just fancy and put together something fresh and original once I get home. I love that most of my recipes on this site are basic, bright and simple, and I want to keep in with that tradition. However, in trying to make things cheaper, or easier or by sticking to my blogging schedule I know sometimes the seasons pass me by. I also need to be challenged to stretch my cooking skills and learn to think outside the box more.
While there was so much beautiful and fresh produce practically everywhere, and I was quite tempted by some of the mental mushrooms and the start of the game season, I always gravitate towards fish counters. I’m a seafood fiend. I just thought there was no way I could not start this column off with something from the ocean, so after I’d picked up the fruit and vegetables on my weekly shopping list, and some spices I needed from Spice Mountain I started browsing the fish counters. Just look at these incredible mackerel!
Anyone who has read this blog for more than a month or two will know that mussels are my all time favourite food; especially when I found wild not rope grown, it was really a forgone conclusion. The thing was, up until Friday when I put this dish together I had never actually cooked mussels in my life, and the preparation was worrying me a bit. But really, did you know how stupidly easy it is? There is honestly no reason to be worried about it. The Kitchn and Waitrose have two great online guides to read before getting started.
Samphire is a relatively new ingredient to both my personal tastes and repertoire; I’d only cooked it once before. You can get it at the Waitrose fish counter, but it is rather pricy so I’d recommend you try to pick it up at markets. It has a very strong, distinct, salty and sometimes slightly bitter taste, and it really is a flavour you need to acquire. I was quite worried working my way the market about using some samphire with my mussels because of the strong taste. What else was I going to use? I was sure I did not need any other herbs or really to salt the broth because of it, but my overwhelming urge to use it put my idea of steaming the mussels with halve cherry tomatoes out the window somewhat. I did not want to add chilli as another bold flavour profile just to add colour, but in the end it turns out it really works. Don’t get me wrong, I think the combination of chilli, mussels and samphire is an acquired taste, but for lovers of all three I think served with a big hunk of fresh, French country style bread it is a real treat that made for a great lunch to kick off my weekend. If you are a samphire first timer, I suggest you just sauté it for a few moments in a pan of very hot butter and serve alongside a piece of grilled salmon to get a taste for it.
- 1 Portion (about 600g) Fresh Mussels
- 1 Handful Samphire
- 1/2 Large Red Chilli, roughly chopped
- Olive Oil
- 1 Echalion Shallot, finely chopped
- 1 Large Garlic Clove, finelly chopped
- Dry White Wine
Clean and debeard the mussels (see above) and discard any that are broken or won’t close when tapped. Sweat the shallot and garlic in a small glug of olive oil in a saucepan with a lid over a medium heat until the onions are translucent. Sweating is basically softening without allowing for browning, done over a lower heat with the lid on to create steam. Add the chilli and cook for a few minutes more until the chilli has softened slightly. Add a dash of wine to the pan enough to create steam, but not much more. Add the samphire and mussels and put the lid on for about 5 minutes until the mussels have steamed open. Serve with a hunk of bread, discarding any mussels that have not opened during cooking. Also, please refer to my guide on How To Eat Mussels, don’t just eat them with a fork!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my first Borough Market challenge, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my new column, and of course these mussels if you decide to try them. I think the combination of mussels and samphire work, but I’d love your thoughts on the matter.