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Fresh Mussels in a Sherry and Shallot Broth

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I grew up with fish from an early age as I lived in a fishing community.  Up until my own parents generation, all my ancestors were into food farming of one kind or another.  On my grandmothers side, it was fishing and on my grandfathers side it was farming, although he left the industry as a second son who inherited nothing on his own fathers death.

My ancestors had 4 fishing boats as a family at one time, but the great storm in 1881 took most of them.  Three generations of family men were lost in one day and I believe the youngest was 15.  In those days, there were no insurance policies, so everything was instantly gone.  As the eldest of the surviving children, my great grandfather had to go to sea at nine years old to earn enough money to feed the children left alive.

Fish is what the industry survivors passed down to the bereaved families to keep them alive.  The traditions spread down the generations until it got to us.  Eating it all their lives left my mother and grandmother as complete fish fans and we were never very far away from a fish pie, fish cake or fish in ruskoline.  I don’t have much in the way of memories for shellfish and I’ve not been one for giving that sort of fish a try, but that is all about to change.

Fish is the Dish have a new campaign going which set an Edinburgh family the challenge of eating fish twice a week to help transform the way the family look and feel for the long term.   Over on the Fish is the Dish website, they have been releasing new tips, recipes and advice from their three Healthy Happy Heart Experts.

Anyone can take on the challenge and you can register on their website to join in.  As an incentive to help 6 lucky readers along, Fish is the Dish have added a fabulous competition to their Facebook page, with 6 fishy family hampers on offer to help get started.

Mussels 1

The Healthy Happy Hearts Campaign runs for a 6 weeks spell to introduce families into eating more fish, more regularly.   I agreed to be up to the challenge of eating two portions of fish a week with my family for 6 weeks.  Fish is the Dish sent us enough fish for the whole family to eat two portions of fish a week for 6 weeks.  We needed to eat the Mussels quickly, so they are our first recipe.

The fish we have to make incredible dishes includes haddock, cod, scallops, prawns, fish pie pieces, pollock, salmon, swordfish and more.

Fish helps us with our health by providing us with marine Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for us.  With an FAS child living here, the association with brain development could be an interesting one and I’d just be happy with reduced joint pain.   Ironically, given our family history, fish is probably the one food that our family has not eaten enough of over the last few years.

I had no idea how to cook Mussels, so I had to look up how to prepare them for the pot.  Most of the Mussels will be beard free when they arrive, but if there are any traces, you need to scrape them off.  I used the back of a knife to get the last wee bits off.

Mussels in Sherry & Shallot Broth

Lesley Smith
I didn't know how to cook Mussels, but as long as we stick to the steaming, it seems we can cook them in just about anything we want to.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Mains
Servings 6


  • 1 kg Live Mussels
  • 4 Shallots Chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic Chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 200 ml Sherry
  • 1 Lemon Juice Squeezed
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste
  • 200 ml Water
  • 2 teaspoons Chopped Parsley


  • Mussels need to be cleaned, rinsed several times and have any traces of beard removed. Most prepared Mussels will be prepared for you just to rinse with perhaps a little beard to remove, but with wild Mussels you need to take a little more care.
  • Tap the shells of any Mussels whose shells are open when you are clearning. If there are any Mussels with open or broken shells left, remove them and bin. I only had to discard 3 Mussels out of my bag. Mussels must be cooked live, so they need to be fresh.
  • Use a large pan, add the olive oil, butter, shallots and garlic. Shallow cook until the shallots are soft and then add the water, sherry, parsley, lemon juice and a touch of salt and pepper. Simmer for a minute while stirring.
  • Add the live Mussels to the pot and steam them for 5 - 10 minutes. Mussels don't take long to cook. Shake the pan a couple of times while cooking to move the broth and the Mussels around. When the shells open, the Mussels are ready.
  • Remove any unopened Mussels and serve them in a dish with their broth and some bread.

The easiest way to eat them is to take one Mussel out of a shell and use it like a pincer to pull the next ones out of their shells and eat them.  Eldest tucked in, as did the Scottish Mum Grannie.

Mussels 2

Mussels 3