Belgium

Dish

Moules frites is a serious classic in Belgian and French bistros, and for good reason: Mussels and crispy fries go together like toast and butter, spaghetti and meatballs, ebony and ivory — well, you get the idea. The moules part — the mussels — are easy to make. The key is to clean these bivalves thoroughly. Plunge them in cool water and then remove the beards — those stringy, fuzzy bits attached to the shells — then run under cool water for good measure. Nothing ruins a big bowl of mussels faster than the crunch of grit between your teeth.

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo mussels
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small bunch parsley ( chopped )
  • 4 medium/large potatoes ( Maris Piper )
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Thoroughly scrub and check (see below) a kilo of mussels.
  2. Put the mussels into a large pot with 250ml of white wine, a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic, crushed flat, a small palmful of chopped parsley and a twist or two of black pepper. Put the lid on tight and bring the mussels up to boiling point.
  3. As soon as the mussels start to open, a matter of a minute or two, they are ready.
  4. Serve them with some of the liquor in the pan.
  5. For the frites you will need about four medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut very finely.
  6. Dry them with a towel, then fry them in deep oil at a temperature of 150C until they start to soften; now remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
  7. Turn up the heat to 185C then return the chips to the oil until they are deep gold in colour season with a sprinkling of salt.
  8. Timing is the tricky thing here. Give the fries their first cooking before you get the mussels on, then give them their second as the mussels are coming up to the finishing line.
  9. Neither want to wait to be eaten, but the moules will last better than the chips.
  10. Check the mussels very carefully before cooking. Tap them on the side of the kitchen sink as you remove their beards and barnacles. If they refuse to close then chuck them away.
  11. Any cracked or chipped shells should go, too.
  12. Use large floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper.
  13. Double frying is essential.