As busy and fascinating as 2008 has been already, it has also been tinged with disappointment. For last week I received some news I wasn't expecting; the magazine I write for, Tastes Of Britain, is folding. Only 4 months old, the magazine has been incredibly well received amongst the more established magazines, praised for its theme of championing British local and seasonal food.
Unfortunately, it appears that due to lots of complicated reasons, it will be no more. So my fledgling writing career for glossy mags comes to an abrupt halt along with a few others. The only good thing I can take out of this is the backload of writing and recipes I already have for them that sadly cannot be used now. So I will reach into the archives and print them up here.
As leeks are the vegetable to sing about in these days of damp darkness, and as they are one of my favourites, I've devised a nice fishy number. Mussels and leeks go remarkably well together; earthy deep orange fresh Northumbrian shellfish accompanied by sweet mild onion leeks, in a kind of gratin, make for a lovely winter warmer to be eaten with good bread and butter. It almost banished the blues after hearing this sad news. And all I can end on is this - it was fun while it lasted. RIP Tastes Of Britain.
Leek, Dill and Mussels
1 shallot, finely chopped
150 ml dry cider
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
25g plain flour
300 ml milk
150g mild crumbly cheese such as Lancashire, grated
A handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 – Wash the mussels and pull off any beards. Tap them sharply onto a work surface and throw away any that do not close up.
2 – Heat up the oil in a deep pan and add the mussels, shallots and cider. Put on the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan every now and again, until the mussels have fully opened. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and keep aside, throwing away any that have not opened. When cool, remove the mussel flesh from the shells. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve and keep aside.
3 – Trim and slice the leeks into 1 inch chunks. Place in a steamer for 5 minutes until soft. Remove and keep aside.
4 – Make a roux by melting the butter in a pan then stirring in the flour until well combined. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring, until you have a thick white sauce.
5 – Stir in 100g of the grated cheese along with the mussels, leeks, dill, reserved cooking liquid and a good grinding of black pepper. Taste the sauce for seasoning.
6 – Pour the mixture into individual gratin dishes or a large gratin dish, top with a little more cheese then cook under a hot grill until golden and bubbling.