Gratinated Mussels (In Partnership with Lidl)
This post was sponsored by Lidl and is about their rope grown MSC certified mussels that are sustainably sourced from a family owned mussel farm on the Isle of Mull.
There is a misconception about cheap food and good food. That cheap food can’t be good and that all good food should be expensive and therefore, all cheap food must be bad. Some food is luxurious and expensive because it is rare or hard to produce (caviar, parmesan), but some food is cheap because it is plentiful and easy to produce, and that doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
Take shellfish, like mussels. So inexpensive and easy to produce in a sustainable way. Very cheap. Very good for you. Mussels are solid protein containing high levels of healthy long chain fatty acids, which are good for the brain and anti inflammatory too. Mussels are packed with vitamins (like vitamin A, essential for immune system function) and minerals (like selenium and zinc), and are on a par with red meats like liver when it comes to iron and folic acid. Mussels are an extraordinarily healthy food, they cook in minutes and they are terrific value too.
Lidl challenged me to come up with a recipe using their mussels grown on a rope farm in Loch Spelve, Isle of Mull. They work with a small, family owned business who produce MSC certified mussels grown in A grade water (as pure as you can get) with no added preservatives. They cost just £1.49. I know!
Mussel rope farming is entirely sustainable, I have visited a couple or mussel rope farms in the past (in Galicia in Spain and outside Melbourne in Australia) and witnessed them clinging to the ropes up to a tonne in weight, in crystal clear waters. Mussels feed on plankton, best in areas with a rich tidal flow, and are not in any way harmful for the environment.
Lidl mussels come pre prepared in a simple white wine sauce or in garlic butter. I was worried about this. Worried that the mussels might be overcooked, or would overcook as I heated them through. I was worried that the flavour might be processed with that tinny flavour that some processed foods can have. I was proven wrong on both counts, the mussels are just cooked and very tender, and the flavours are simple, direct and good. Another surprise positive for me was that the mussels have a long shelf life of a few weeks, unlike fresh mussels which must be cooked immediately.
I played around with a number of ideas and settled on these lovely gratinated mussels cooked two ways. One with blue cheese and parmesan crumb, the other with tomato, basil and parmesan crumb. I chose this because gratinated mussels are simple, flavour packed and require a cooked mussel to prepare them. The sauce is a perfect liquid to bathe them in before you top them with the other gorgeous ingredients, and a brief blast under the grill heats them through but doesn’t risk toughening them in any way. They look great too, and are a perfect treat for when friends come around, or for you at home any evening that you want it.
1 x pack of Lidl Scottish mussels in white wine sauce
1 x 125g pack of Lidl roquefort cheese
1 x packet of Lidl parmiggiano reggiano, 50g finely grated
25g breadcrumbs (panko work well)
8 cherry tomatoes
8 basil leaves
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 x pack of coarse sea salt
Remove the top shell from the mussels.
On a tray that can go under the grill, spread a solid layer of sea salt (this will stabilise the mussels and it also looks good for presentation too).
Place the mussels on it with a teaspoon of sauce in each. They look good when you place them top to toe as I have in the photo.
Combine the breadcrumbs and the parmesan.
On one half, place a little roquefort and parsley, and cover with the parmesan breadcrumb mix. On the remaining mussels, add tomato and torn basil, covered with the parmesan breadcrumb mix.
Place under a hot grill for just a couple of minutes until the breadcrumb is golden.