For most of this week, my eldest daughter (aged 6) is off school and at home with me, so skipping lunch, or eating something stupid and insubstantial, as I often find myself doing when working at home, isn’t an option.
Said daughter is possibly the easiest person on earth to feed an interesting meal. Some gene resides within her that means that, if something untasted, intriguing or curious lands on a plate in front of her, she descends upon it like someone who hasn’t eaten in a week, a wild look in her eyes. (She will also chant ‘Fat! Fat! Fat!’ as I prepare a piece of meat, and will snaffle the wobbliest, weirdest bits of any cut before anyone else gets a look-in. I’m very proud.)
Anyway, whilst we were on our holidays in the UK, we visited The Lobster Shack in Whitstable for lunch, and ordered the cold platter to share. As they carried it out, I swear her jaw touched the floor for a moment, and she spent a happy half-hour merrily slurping down mussels, cockles, oysters, salmon, dressed crab and giant prawns. I’ve rarely seen her so content.
This lunch is inspired by her happiness at the meal and, predictably, it hardly touched the sides.
I realise that it hardly qualifies as a recipe at all, so think of it as more of a suggestion. I used up some bacon fat that I had handy in the fridge (left over from a weekend breakfast: never throw away animal fat, people!), so I used that to achieve yet more rich, smokiness, but feel absolutely free to use whatever you have, or just toast the bread.
For 1-2 people, you will need:
- 1 huge or two regular slices of bread (plus any extra bread you might want on the side)
- 3tbsp of bacon fat (or whatever you have handy), if you’re frying rather than toasting the bread.
- 1 tin or tub of smoked mussels (around 100g drained weight)
- A small handful of roughly chopped parsley leaves
- Half a lime
- Flaky salt and pepper
- Your best extra virgin olive oil
Put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, and put in your fat. Leave for a couple of minutes, til a breadcrumb sizzles in the pan.
Fry your bread for a minute or two on each side til it’s deep, golden brown.
Put the toast on a plate and pile on the mussels in the most generous way possible. Don’t drain them of their oil, cause it’s nice, so just let them pick up as much of it as they do as you transfer them.
Scatter over the parsley, season with salt and pepper (careful with the salt, cause the mussels will already likely be quite salty), squeeze over your lime, and finish with a drizzle of the olive oil.
Nothing more remains than to get your knife and fork and dig in. I like to mash the mussels down into the toast a little, then cut off slice after slice. If I were in a position to, I’d absolutely open an icy cold beer to drink with it though, even without, it’s quite possibly the finest lunch I can imagine, and the work of five minutes.
This method would work with any other smoked fish or shellfish, of course, though there’s something about those mussels. Delicious.