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The Village Fête

This is the post excerpt.

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It’s one of the hottest days of the year as I write this.


Having spent the early part of the day preparing for the joy that is the village fête, I considered my wardrobe for the season. A plain white t-shirt, destined to have endless adverts for Movie Night ironed on it, lay prone and sodden at the bottom of the washing machine.


Said washing machine, quite new and melodious (every wash comes accompanied by a selection of rather exciting beeps), had gone kaput on Tuesday. The reason for this irksome and slightly bewildering development was that bindweed had grown into the outflow pipe, and built a plug with hair from Tara, the Labrador.


One quick visit from the plumber, and the washing machine was back to the old sing and spin. Delightful. That was Tuesday. It’s now Saturday.

I’m not sure what happened over the last few days; there was nothing on TV, I’m certain of that. Our lives have become smaller due to binge-watching of box-sets. I’m a fool for Ian McShane, and he’s in everything at the moment. In any case, the washing sat in the machine for the next few days, and so the plainest of my t-shirts went unadulterated by slogans and unworn for the fête.


The fête is a village event. There are other events in the locale over the summertime, but this one is closely associated with the school, and thus there were thousands of children in attendance. Grown people sauntered in shorts and strappy tops, factor three-thousand sun cream; lower bum cheeks hanging thickly, like bald-man neck fat.


The issue is not, and never has been, that people dress for a time when they were thinner. Far from it. All the mums do yoga and Chardonnay – thus, svelte and hollow-cheeked fitness is par for the course. (Not me, obviously. I have a body shape that more closely resembles bug-splat on a windscreen.) The problem, as it seemed to me, was that the various and exhausted dogs who were dragged along to the fête were pant- and overheating.


Not to blow my own trumpet – I will tolerate several levels of idiot, but I can be a little sharp. As such, water bowls were found in pretty short order, and visits to the coconut shy, abbreviated. I will point out, I do not consider myself a spoiler of fun, and I’m quite sure that the thoughtless people came back, having secured their dogs in the shade of home, and were, without doubt, wildly entertained by the bouncy castle and plants’ stall.


I too had to return to the homestead due to the heat. In the apparel of my forebears, jeans and a Guinness t-shirt, I drank a little too much Pimms and retired to the shade of the Legion gazebo. Having worked for the Legion for the last eight years, it was where I was supposed to be for the afternoon. That is, before I found the Pimms stall. However, I was there for a good few hours, talking movies with Valerie and Sam.

I run Movie Night at the Club. Part of my joy for films is that I forget the ending as soon as the disc is back in the box. My partner, and seemingly everybody else’s partner, remembers the whole story. We’ll re-watch something, and Aimée will say, “It’s such a shame that guy dies”.


It’s as if she’s psychic.


Sue was in charge of the egg game: about three dozen empty eggshells stand on a tray of sand, the kids pay 20p a go, and pick one of the eggs. It’s lifted up, and there may or may not be a prize underneath. There usually is. Sid was assisting, in full suit and tie, with Navy beret and cufflinks. I have no idea how he coped in the weather. They build them tough in the Navy.


Sadly, my escape to the tent was to no avail. Indeed, it was the kind of steady, motionless heat that warms the lungs. Down the windy, pockmarked lanes, I staggered, until I reached the house.


If this was America, the village would be something akin to a gated community. But this is England, and we don’t do gates. We do exclusivity in spades, but there’s something rather impolite about gates.


We live in multiple shades of green. Lawns are treated and scarified. Some people have chickens, and sell eggs at the side of the road. Most people are retired. Those of us who aren’t, wish we were. There are book clubs. They seem to know a lot about wine. I’m not sure if they read. Lots of the younger ones came here for the school. Not being a parent, I don’t know too much about it.


Aimée was playing Skyrim when I scurried through the door, and the dogs were dancing around each other. The littlest one has just come into season, so she’s making smells and driving the others mad.


Aimée went through to the kitchen, picked up their bowls, and the dogs went thundering through. Tara is by far the most patient. Doobie barely has the sense he was born with. Poppy insists on making everything about herself. And Pumpkin jumps up and digs at the freezer, because that’s where their food comes from. There is a logic in her simplicity.


Aimée continued portioning out their food, and they were soon nose-deep in ox meat, offal and bones. They didn’t get along with kibble. So many of the kibbles seem to consist of additives and dust. I know, to a lot of people, raw feeding is gross. To be fair, I’m a meat eater, but even so, I don’t hang about when they’re having green tripe or day-old ducklings. Aimée, however, is basically vegetarian. How she manages to chop up lungs, testicles and livers, I may never know.


By this point, I’d had a momentary success and made it off the sofa. A mix of Pimms-related head-spin and sunburn nagged at my brain.
And then it occurred to me: The Legion fête is in six weeks.

And so it begins.

The Thank You

It’s live. It exists. It’s a book. And here it is: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FQDBGDR/ref=cm_sw_r_fm_apa_ccDuBb95D6E1Q

Now, to pretend it’s the Oscars…

Many thanks to Liz Borino for some stellar editing, and resolving my issues with the Oxford comma.

Huge applause to my friend at Fantasia Covers for creating the cover art, which continues to take my breath away.

A big howdy, hello and thank you to Heidi McGovern for doing my makeup, and making me look pretty well human in the author photograph.

Dankoo to Aimée Thomas for taking the author photograph and for dealing with my daily conversations with people who don’t exist.

A big bear hug to all the contributors on the 20 Books to 50k Facebook group, who have given tremendous advice, some of which I’ve attempted to follow.

To my friends and family, past and present, for putting up with hearing about this book without actually reading it.

And my Movie Nighters, who have borne my ramblings about who should star in the film with bucketfuls of understanding and Guinness.

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How beautiful is my launch cake, by the way? Ooof. Hugs to Claire Robson of Claire’s Cakes, Exmouth.

Show Me The Vol Au Vents

I’m not a chef. I can cook. I can follow a recipe. I can even tell you how I’ve always made – whatever it is. But I couldn’t create a recipe. My brain doesn’t work that way. Scintillating domestic suspense with some emotional depth, heaps of sarcasm and jokes about batteries, but I couldn’t guess at flavour-combinations with any level of certainty.

I’m making vol au vents for my book launch – tomorrow.

Huge excitement at Binney HQ right now, except… I can’t find vol au vent cases for love nor money. I’m from a different time. In the eighties, you couldn’t move for vol au vents. They were everywhere. It was an epidemic. But now.. I’d have an easier time finding all manner of illicit whatnot.

So, I’m going to have to make them. Actually. From scratch.

I think it’ll be quite a long day, but fingers crossed for the book.

Smoky Albondigas

Smoky Albondigas

Ingredients:

White bread, four crustless slices, torn into small pieces

6tbsp milk

400g beef mince

400g pork mince

1 clove garlic, crushed

Small bunch parsley, chopped

1 egg

Half a teaspoon smoked paprika

Olive oil

 

For the tomato sauce:

2 cloves garlic, sliced

200ml red wine

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

A good pinch of smoked paprika

 

  1. Put the bread in a large bowl, tip over the milk and toss until it has all soaked in.
  2. Add the minces, garlic, parsley, egg, smoked paprika and lots of seasoning. Mix together really well using clean hands (yours, or those of a friend) and roll into small meatballs – you’ll be able to make about 32 from this mixture.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a wide, shallow pan and brown the meatballs all over, in batches. Scoop out once they’re browned.
  4. Add a little more oil to the pan, then add the sliced garlic and sizzle for a couple of minutes. Tip in the wine and boil it until it is almost reduced to nothing. Add the tomatoes and smoked paprika, season and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about ten minutes, add back the meatballs and then simmer for twenty minutes until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through.

Tia Maria and Chocolate Creams

Tia Maria and Chocolate Creams

Ingredients:

150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

450ml double cream

6tbsp Tia Maria (or Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Kahlua)

Cocoa powder for dusting

Amaretti biscuits, crushed

Thick card

 

  1. Put the chocolate in a bowl. Mix the cream with the Tia Maria, reserve 6 tablespoons of the mixture, then tip the rest into a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and tip straight over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate melts.
  2. Divide between six glasses, and allow to cool. Whip the remaining cream/Tia Maria mix until slightly thickened, then spoon over the cooled chocolate puddings. Chill for at least one hour, to set.
  3. While you’re waiting, cut a heart shape from a piece of thick card.
  4. When ready to serve, set the card over the glass and sift over a dusting of cocoa powder and crushed Amaretti biscuits.

Shiitake Mushroom and Chestnut Risotto

A lot of people say you should write what you know. So, with that in mind: food.

Shiitake Mushroom and Chestnut Risotto

Ingredients:

Knorr vegetable stock pot, or similar, made up to 1ltr with boiling water

25g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

125g shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

150g arborio rice

Splash of dry white wine

200g jar whole chestnuts, roughly chopped

25g vegetarian parmesan, finely grated

 

  1. Put the stock in a saucepan over a low heat and leave to simmer gently. Put a sauté pan over a medium heat and melt the butter, then add the onion and cook until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the sauté pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
  2. Add the rice to the sauté pan, stirring to coat in the juices, and cook until the edges are translucent. Pour in the wine and bubble for a minute, then add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring between each addition and ensuring the stock has been absorbed before adding more.
  3. When you have about a third of the stock left, add the chestnuts. Keep adding stock and stirring until the rice is cooked but retains some bite – you may not need all the stock, or you may need to top it up a little. Stir through most of the parmesan, season and serve with the remaining parmesan.

The Importance of a Read-Through

I have read Book One in the ‘Sex, Death and Dinner’ pentology sixteen times now. I still love it. It’s out next Friday. It’s all terribly exciting.

The shocker is, after sixteen read-throughs, two rounds of editing and a proofread, I found a sentence starting “An pickled onion”.

“An pickled onion”?

Really?

It’s a kind of screen-blindness. I have been known to swap out ‘the’ for ‘then’, ‘there’ and all manner of ‘those’, but “an pickled onion”?

So, here’s my advice for anyone who might be in my boat – 1) change the font. Sometimes, it’s easier to spot these things when they look different. 2) print it out. Again, sometimes it’s easier to read on paper. 3) my personal favourite: press whatever button you have to get the computer to read it out loud. It can be very tiring listening to all that talk but it’s worth it.

“An pickled onion”. Can you imagine?

Friday 20th July, ‘Sex, Death & Canapés’, Petrina Binney

My pickled onions only come in A’s.

Stuffed Pork Fillet with Creamed Butter Beans

Stuffed Pork Fillet with Creamed Butter Beans

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil for frying

400g free-range pork fillet (where possible buy local, help a farmer)

1 large onion, finely chopped

14 slices (probably 2 packs) Parma ham

2 free-range pork sausages, skin removed

Small bunch of sage, chopped

30g fresh breadcrumbs

 

And for the Creamed Butter Beans:

40g unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1tbsp plain flour

150ml white wine

400ml double cream

2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained and rinsed

260g young leaf spinach

Small bunch fresh flat parsley, roughly chopped

A squeeze of lemon juice

 

  1. Heat the oven to 220℃. Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan and add the pork. Fry for 3-4 minutes over a high heat to sear all over, then set the pork aside on a board. Leave the pan on the hob.
  2. Lower the heat under the pan, then add a quarter of the onion and fry for five minutes or until it starts to soften. Meanwhile, lay out the Parma ham slices on a work surface so that each slice is slightly overlapping widthwise, thus – making a rectangle the length of the pork. Put the softened onion in a mixing bowl to cool; reserve the frying pan for later.
  3. Once the onion has cooled, mix the sausagemeat, sage and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the pork lengthwise about three-quarters of the way through, then open it out like a book. Top with the stuffing, then sandwich together, packing in the stuffing as best you can. Put the pork on top of the ham, then wrap around the enclose the pork and secure the stuffing.
  4. Put the pork in a roasting tin, then roast for twenty minutes. After this time, turn the oven down to 200℃, then cook for twenty minutes more, or until a digital thermometer, pushed into the thickest part of the meat, reads 72-75℃. The pork will feel quite firm. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, then slice.
  5. Once you’ve turned the oven down for the pork, prepare the beans. Set the reserved frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter and a glug of oil. Add the remaining onion and fry for five minutes. Add the garlic and flour, then stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, then turn up the heat and simmer for five minutes, to reduce the liquid. Add the cream, then the spinach (adding it in batches, stirring until it wilts before adding more).
  6. Stir in the butter beans to warm through, taste and season, then stir in the parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with the sliced pork.

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Ingredients:

2tbsp butter

1 onion, chopped

2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes

1 clove garlic, finely sliced

750ml boiling water

1 stock cube

2tsps curry powder

100ml double cream

Salt and pepper

Dried chilli flakes or smoked paprika to garnish

 

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Fry the onion in the butter until soft, about five minutes. Add the parsnips, garlic and curry powder, and fry for a couple of minutes to release the flavour.
  2. Boil the water in a kettle and mix with the stock cube in a separate jug. Add to the pan and stir well.
  3. Simmer for about fifteen minutes, until the parsnips are soft and easy to break with a wooden spoon.
  4. Take off the heat, and blend with a hand-mixer or food processor.
  5. Stir in the cream and warm through.
  6. Season to taste and garnish with chilli flakes or smoked paprika.

Author Interview, with Petrina Binney

Yes. I am, in effect, talking to myself. Enjoy.

🔸 Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’m working on a series of five books, following Fiona Weaver-King, a middle-aged, highly successful artist, finding her way out of the closet. Fiona lives in a small, intensely gossipy village in Dartmoor, Devon.

Having endured a pretty dreadful marriage to Roland, a mean-mouthed philanderer, Fiona and her friends find themselves in the locality of a murder, both victim and assailant are unknown to the people of the intensely quiet and middle-class village of Amberleigh, but the ladies hit upon an idea and settle down to a series of dinner parties.

There’s a lot of suspicion, and not everyone will make it home alive.

I’ve just sent the first novel off for its final proofread, and I’m working on the sequel. I have a sketch plan for the third and fourth books. The final novel, at this point, stands to be a surprise to me as I have no idea how many of the characters will still be standing at that point. (If I had to guess, not many.)

🔸 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t give up. I started writing a novel when I was twenty. On reflection, it was a deeply self-indulgent, overly purple piece, and I can’t really remember if I got beyond the first draft. Certainly, I never edited it at all. All I can think is, even if that book had been lousy, it would have been experience. And there’s nothing to say I would have had to publish everything I wrote in the years in between, but I’m sure my confidence would have grown exponentially if I’d continued on a creative path since that first real attempt.

Instead, I wound up working in retail and taking bar jobs, however, I do think that those experiences taught me a lot about people. I just should have been writing as well.

🔸 What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Without a doubt, that was on my editor. I had a deeply uncomfortable relationship with the Oxford comma, she sorted that out straight away. I have a tendency to waffle, so there was no question I would need an editor anyway. Where I felt quite clever was in my selection of editor. I chose an American editor.

I was raised and educated in the UK and my story is set in the UK, too. However, I felt quite sure there would be nuances, words, expressions in my work that might need translating, and given that America is such a huge reading market, it was important to me that the work be intelligible to an American reader.

As well as fixing my punctuation and pointing out terribly English wording, Liz also managed to reassure me that I wasn’t wasting my time (I’m a delicate little thing, so that mattered to me), while simultaneously explaining where I was spiralling.

I hadn’t realised but I have a real talent for head-hopping, which sounds terribly exotic but is, in fact, confusing and almost-certainly anyone not currently inside my head.

There’s no question for me. Liz Borino, has made me a better writer.

🔸 What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

On my first day of school, a teacher was telling off a group of boys. I was new, clearly, and didn’t know where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do, so I tapped the teacher on the elbow. She turned to me.

“How dare you?” she shouted.

My heart nearly stopped. No one had ever shouted at me before. Of course, she wasn’t yelling at me, she was yelling at the boys, and they were only three little words, but they scared the life out of me.

🔸 What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Not a blessed thing. Most of my characters are differing shades of me. I’m pretty sure there will be people I have known who will identify with my protagonist, but the only one who’ll be certain that she’s Fiona, is in fact the antagonist.

🔸 What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I read a lot. Thankfully, with google, some smaller details can be discovered fairly quickly, but for more in-depth knowledge, I read. For the ‘Sex, Death and Dinner’ pentology, I have read a great number of books including: ‘Bullies, Bastards and Bitches’ by Jessica Page Morrell, ‘Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us’ by Robert D. Hare, ‘Forensics’ by Val McDermid, ‘The Real CSI’ by Kate Bendelow, and ‘Keeping Quail’ by Katie Thear, as well as several books on self-publishing and marketing.

I have spent rather longer thinking about the series than I have researching, however, there have been months spent on reading. Thankfully, I can speed-read and have a pretty good memory.

🔸 What period of your life do you find you write about most often?

A time that has yet to come. My protagonist is older than me. Most of my characters are. It’s something I have known about myself for some time. I’m drawn to the older woman. I suppose it’s because I like people who know who they are, and what they want. The irony is, Fiona Weaver-King is only just finding this stuff out, but I love her anyway.

🔸 What did you edit out of this book?

Recipes. There are several dinner parties in the first book, and much as the dishes are still mentioned, now there aren’t thorough enough descriptions to classify the novel as a cook book. I also snipped out around five thousand words, leaving the final manuscript at around 59,000 words.

🔸 What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Explaining what the book is about. I was pretty lucky, and found a business page on Facebook for a blurb writer. She is known as The Blurb Bitch and she did an amazing job with what I gave her.

I suspect it’s a difficulty for a lot of writers. After spending several months thinking, sketching, leaving half-remembered notes to myself, writing several drafts, and getting sidetracked by Solitaire, I couldn’t think how to describe the book without giving away the ending, or thinking too much about side characters. The Blurb Bitch cut through all of that and left me with a short, snappy invitation to read.

🔸 Where did your love of books, storytelling, reading, writing, etc. come from?

My mother was in hospital a lot when I was growing up. When the doctors didn’t really want me in the room, I spent a lot of time in the hospital library with the French librarian, Jacqueline. She was married to a surgeon and got me into the Brontës.

🔸 Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

I may be kidding myself, but I like to think of my writing style as a slightly smutty Daphne Du Maurier. I have a lot of time for the dark and brooding side of things. Throw in some obsession, an echo from something long forgotten, and a countryside setting and I’m in my element. I just pepper it with some leering.

🔸 What projects are you working on at the present?

Book two. The artist is currently working on the cover for the first in the series, the editor is proofreading book one, so now is my time for starting up book two.

I have a plan. I rarely keep to a plan, but I do try. My hope is to work on book two while book one is with the editor. When book one is back, I’ll fix any remaining changes, and finish book two.

Then book two will go to the editor, and I’ll start work on book three. When book two is back, I’ll make the necessary changes and, having been away from it for a little while, will hopefully read it with fresh eyes, and add or deduct scenes as necessary. Once book two is back for its second round of edits, I’ll finish up book three. And so the cycle begins again.

I intend to have three books ready to go before I hit ‘publish’. Everything I’ve read on the subject suggests that a stockpile of books for rapid-release is the best way to get noticed by readers who don’t know my name, my work, or what they’re letting themselves in for.

🔸 Name five favourite movies. Why?

‘Cloud Atlas’ – an absolute cracker. I know flash-back-flash-forward work can be hard to follow, but I love it. I thought the use of the same cast in every era worked really well, and the lesson that we are all linked, through love, revenge, justice and passion really resonated with me.

‘Hairspray’ – I like fluff, too. I am talking about the remake here, but it’s my go-to film on lousy days. I don’t think it’s possible to watch it without feeling better within the first song. Also, I basically was Tracey at school. Right down to planning the wedding based on a nudge. I understand her.

‘Cookie’s Fortune’ – dark, it deals with some serious themes set against the prim and proper backdrop of a community theatrical production. Right up my street. Throw in Glenn Close and I’m happy.

’84 Charing Cross Road’ – beautiful. I read the book after watching the film. I don’t think anyone could beat Anne Bancroft for timing. I really loved the idea of a relationship of letters, between people who would never meet, talking about books.

‘The Hippopotamus’ – now, I love Stephen Fry, and I loved the book when it first came out. The film might have been a little tricky in places. When you read a book, your own imagination can blur the lines and fuzz out the details – you’re not offered that opportunity in film. It is as you see it. So, some of the scenes were rather uncomfortable. The reason ‘The Hippopotamus’ absolutely gets on this list is Fiona Shaw. I’ve been a fan for a very long time, and I suppose I’d grown accustomed to her playing funny and kooky and a little uncertain, but I’d never heard her shout before. In one scene, her character lost her temper and she was incandescent.

🔸 Are you a morning person or a night person?

I’ve always been a night person. I admire morning people but it’s never been something I’ve had a talent for. I enjoy the quiet and the dark. Night suits me. It also means I have some time to myself, to write. The rest of the household is asleep, so I get a chance to really work.

🔸 Name one thing that drives you crazy.

This question has given me the most to think about. It turns out, I’m quite easy to annoy. The worst thing, for me, is people who speak with authority about things they know nothing about. I had a friend who tried to explain exterior wiring to me. He stated, with absolute certainty, that one could run an interior cable through a water hose and it was basically the same level of protection as afforded by the use of steel wire armoured cable (it’s not, don’t do it).

When he told me this, I’d recently qualified as an electrician.

I’ve had a straight man explain to me how acceptable it is to be a lesbian these days.

I have been told that anyone who can write a birthday card can knock out a novel.

It’s really quite maddening.

🔸 If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I think I’d start out with the best of intentions but like anyone else, I’d probably start using the power of flight or super speed to get the shopping more easily. I suppose super-villainy would be something of a temptation if I knew I couldn’t be caught. That said, super-villains have cats and I’m more of a dog person.

Invisibility would turn too quickly into a neurosis. Telepathy could be quite disturbing. Telekinesis – I would never leave the sofa again. Time travel – I don’t get bored, so I’d probably go back to the eighties and stay there; not because the fashion was so great or the world much different, mostly because I knew everyone and I had no bills. Okay. Time travel it is.

🔸 If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be?

Fiona Shaw, Gillian Anderson and Stephen Fry. They’d have to talk amongst themselves though, because I’d probably spend the whole show just looking at them.

🔸 You are chosen to make dinner for a special guest. What will you cook?

This ties in to the titles of my books really remarkably well.

I’d have to have canapés, maybe something with filo pastry for when they arrived.

A starter of scallops, maybe with chorizo, main course of venison, roast potatoes, carrots, asparagus, and for pudding – lemon posset.

If they happen to be vegetarian, I make an earth-moving Quorn lasagne.

I hate washing up, but I love cooking.

🔸 What literary character is most like you?

To be frank, if I don’t make sure to get out of the house from time to time, it’s questionable whether I’ll turn into Mrs. Danvers or Miss Havisham first. I tend to think of myself more as the lead in ‘Jane Eyre’.

🔸 What is something you want to accomplish before you die?

Booker prize or a film deal. I’m not greedy.

Blog – binneyblog.wordpress.com
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/PetrinaAuthor/
‘Sex, Death and Canapés’ will be available on Amazon on 20th July 2018.
Wish me luck 😊

Mussels in Cider

This recipe contains multiple warnings. It’s delicious, which is the most important thing but don’t mess with seafood. It’s a valuable life lesson.

Mussels in Cider

Ingredients:

3kg mussels

300g smoked bacon or pancetta lardons

6 shallots, finely sliced

9 cloves garlic, minced

300ml dry cider

6tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

3tbsp crème fraiche

Crusty bread to serve

 

  1. Scrub the mussels and remove the beards. Tap each mussel on a hard work surface; if the mussel does not remain closed, discard it. It’s not worth getting sick.
  2. In a pan large enough to fit all the mussels in an even layer, fry the pancetta until the fat has melted and the pancetta is golden brown.
  3. Add the shallots and garlic, and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, or until softened.
  4. Add the mussels and cider, stir well and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Steam the mussels for 5-6 minutes, or until the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that remain shut. Again, don’t mess with seafood. It will feel like the end of the world, and you’ll wind up questioning your life-choices, all from the perspective of somewhere on your bathroom floor.
  5. Stir in the parsley and transfer the mussels to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon.
  6. Stir the crème fraiche into the mussel cooking liquid in the pan and season with black pepper. Pour the liquid over the mussels. Serve with fresh crusty bread.