One good thing about February,along with all the winter months, is that it has an "r" in the month (two "r"s in fact) which means that we can eat mussels.
The reason behind the "r in the month" rule is mainly that mussels spawn in the warmer months of the year and avoiding eating them at this time helps to keep stocks replenished. Also after spawning they have lower body weight and so there is less meat content per number of mussels. There is also a link between warmer water temperatures and higher levels of bacterial contamination of mussels but if clean unbroken mussels are correctly prepared there is little danger to health.
With so much overfishing there are many species of fish that we should not be eating but mussels are plentiful and can be eaten with a clear conscience especially if they are rope grown, dredging the seabed is not good for wildlife.
We love mussels and I usually cook them very simply in white wine or cider with shallots but this weekend while shopping in Waitrose I noticed that the February issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated has a recipe for Carrot and Mussel soup. I did think twice about trying this recipe as carrots and mussels are a combination that I would never have thought of, but its always a good idea to try something new and I followed the recipe to the letter - its brilliant.
I looked on the website to try to link to the recipe but the featured magazine is still January's, I'll check back in a couple of days and see if it is updated and I can find the recipe.
Until then a brief summary ....
The mussels are steamed in white wine and left until cool enough to handle. Two thirds are removed from their shells and these together with the remaining ones in shell are put aside to add to the soup.
Finely sliced carrots and shallots are cooked in a covered pan with stock, unsalted butter and a teaspoon each of salt and sugar
The liquid from cooking the mussels is added to the carrot mixture together with more stock and creme fraiche and brought to the boil. The mussels are then added to heat through.
The finished soup looked lovely although mine doesn't look as good as the photo on the front of the magazine.
It is a lovely creamy soup and the carrots make it quite sweet. I still like my mussels cooked simply in cider with lots of crusty granary bread to soak up the juices but I will be cooking this recipe again.
So, if you find yourself in Waitrose looking at the photo on the front of the magazine and wondering if mussels really do go with carrots, try it and see, somewhat surprisingly the combination works very well. A perfect supper for the "r" months.