Spring into action

Peter Walters, Keele University’s Executive Chef steps into spring with some superb seafood

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head and whispered to her neighbour: ‘Winter is dead.”   A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

I do like winter but like most things one can have too much of it, especially the cold and dark mornings of the commute with glaring headlights and thrashing rain. Spring is here towards the end of the month, and who knows what the weather will bring.

The clocks go forward and the sun gets up earlier – doesn’t it make you want to leap out of bed in search of a new flavour? Below you’ll see I’ve chosen mussels, a mollusc that requires little to make it taste superb. Try these two recipes though. They are not too complex to the dedicated cook; although I prefer mine simply cooked and served with frites (chips) and enjoyed while sitting outside on a French restaurant terrace with a dry white to swill them down. That reminds me, must get the holiday booked, it’s nearly Easter!

Steamed Mussels with Orange

For 4 persons

60 fresh Mussels, scrubbed and beards removed

3 tbsp butter

50g spring onions, chopped

50g shallots, chopped

1 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Pinch Thyme  

Pinch Basil

Zest of an orange

250ml dry white wine

100ml water

75g Parsley, chopped                                        


Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the spring onions and shallots and gently cook until soft, add the remaining ingredients except the mussels and bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, cover the pot and cook over medium-high heat until the mussels open, three to five minutes. Discard unopened ones.


Remove mussels to a large warmed bowl or platter, spoon the hot broth and vegetables over them, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.


Mussels with Wine Jelly on Beetroot Mousse

For 6 persons

18 Mussels

Wine Jelly  

60g white wine

60g Mussel stock

Dash of vanilla

1.5g gelatine leaf, pre-soaked

Cook the mussels in the usual way by first sweating a little shallot in butter then adding the mussels and little white wine and covering with a lid and steaming the them. Remove from the shells and strain the cooking liquid.  

Warm the wine with mussel stock and vanilla. Add the gelatine and dissolve. Pour onto a plate and cool place in the fridge so that it sets. Cut the jelly into diamonds or strips.


Beetroot Mousse

130g Beetroot Puree (Use cooked beetroot and a tbsp water and puree in a food processor)

100g water

3g gelatine leaf

1 egg white

Mix the puree with the water. Season with salt and pepper, pass through a sieve. Heat to 40°C. Add the gelatine and dissolve. Place in the freezer until it is chilled but not set. Put in a bowl and place the bowl over ice. Whisk to get air into the mix. Stiffly beat the egg white to peak then fold into the beetroot mixture. Fill into wine glasses and place in the refrigerator.


Beetroot Salad

250g Beetroot, cooked

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

Chives, chopped

Dice the beetroot. Add olive oil, red wine vinegar and chopped chives. Season to taste. Arrange the beetroot salad between the glasses, top with mussels and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Lastly decorate with jelly.  Serve with a croustade of rye bread as a springtime starter.

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