June 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Northern & Eastern Europe | 1 Comment

Belgium. Known for chocolate & beer and on the surface…er, not a lot more. Belgium is a little short of notable other things. After a bit of research, I didn’t find a whole lot more, other than the fact it hosts the EU headquarters in Brussels and that peculiarly almost-Australian Kim Clijsters actually hails from Belgium. But I think that’s OK – their reputation as creators of fine chocolate and superfluous beer is deservedly unassailable.

The Plan

As it turns out, the Belgian national dish is moules frites or mussels & fries. I love this dish, but I’ve only consumed it in restaurants. How hard can it be to cook? To make it, I’ve followed Gordon Ramsay’s recipe in part, but deferred to Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for chips. You need to make the chips and mayonnaise first, the mussels are completed very quickly.

Note the mussels dish serves about 2 hungry big people (I supplemented this with prawns on the side to make it fit a family of four)


  • 1 kg blue mussels
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 100ml olive oil (I used half of this!)
  • 150 ml dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • A bunch of parsley leaves.
  1. Put the mussels in a large bowl of water and clean them. Leave them for 20 minutes.
  2. Dice the vegetables. Pick the thyme leaves from the stalks, discarding all of the thicker stalks.
  3. In a large pan, put on the heat and add the oil. When the oil is really hot, throw in the vegetables. The thyme leaves should start crackling and give off a gorgeous smell.
  4. Cook for about 1 ½ minutes, or until the vegetables have started to wilt.
  5. Add the mussels and shake the pan so they form an even layer. Add a tight lid and cook for another 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occaisionally.
  6. Add the wine, shake through and return to the heat for another 1 ½ minutes.
  7. Take a colander and pour the mussels and vegetables through into a bowl. Discard any mussels that did not open.
  8. Return the reserved liquid to the pan and reheat. Stir in the sour cream and parsley leaves
  9. Add the mussels and vegetables back to the pan. Shake a few times, then serve in large soup bowls.

Home made mayonnaise

  • Two egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp wine vinegar.

Put the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard powder, some salt and 2 tbsp of oil into a blender. While blending, slowly add the remainder of the oil to produce a creamy emulsion. Chill

The Ultimate Chip

  • 1.2kg potatoes, washed and peeled (King Edward or Sebago)
  • 1 litre groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 1 litre rendered fat (optional)
  1. Put on a large pot of unsalted water on to boil.
  2. Slice the potatos into chips, around 1cm or more in diameter. Concentrate on making them consistently the same thickness. Square off the ends of the potatoes. Place them in a bowel and run them under a tap for 10 minutes to remove as much starch as possible
  3. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes. Return to a boil, but then make sure they’re only cooked at a gentle simmer. Cook for 9 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chips. Place on trays and refrigerate until chilled. They should harden when they cool.
  5. Heat the oil to 130C and plunge in the chips. After 5 minutes, remove – they should appear drier, but not browned. Drain, dry and return to the fridge for cooling
  6. When ready to cook for serving, you can either use the original oil or the rendered fat. If it’s the latter, heat to 180C (otherwise, heat the vegetable oil to 130C). Fry the chips for 8-10 minutes

The Event

I made a huge mess making this, plus sliced the top off my thumb at the end while making some garlic prawns as a side (forgettable). The chips were slightly over parboiled and I suspect probably too wet to begin with (read up on Heston’s chip making article), but they were still good. Not having a fat thermometer was a problem (meat thermometers peak at 100C). Bearding mussels was a new experience – you do need to be careful not to kill the mussel or it won’t open.

The Outcome

Liam: “The mussels are great except they’re kind of more disgusting than prawns. The mayonnaise is too vinegar-y. I like the chips though! And the bread!”

Jacq: “This is FANTASTIC”

Chris: “10/10 for effort! I’ve never had mussels, these are good!”

Me: The mayonnaise was a disaster (1 tbsp is not 1 tsp) but the rest was hands down perfect. A great meal. In fact, the only real problem was that we don’t have bowls big enough to contain the mussels!


1 Comment »

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  1. Yes, good effort indeed. – Can you post a picture of the thumb?

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