Mussels With Guinness And Garlic

This dish, a variant of moules marinière, is the ideal meal to serve on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th). My recipe is modeled closely on the original classic from "The Irish Pub Cookbook" by Margaret Johnson, as served at Ireland's oldest pub, The Brazen Head in Dublin. Surprisingly, although you use a lot of flavoursome ingredients in making this dish, the mussels hold their own flavour very well. Mind you, starting with really top quality mussels does help! The sweet cream combines fantastically with the bitter stout.

Ingredients (4 portions)

2 kg live mussels
2 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1/4 bunch fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
400 ml Guinness
100 ml double cream
30 gm butter
salt and black pepper


Although this meal is very quick to make, you must allow time for cleaning the mussels.

These should be kept moist and cool during the prep period. Don't keep them fully submersed in water for too long before you cook them as you don't want them to open.
This tutorial from "All Recipes" provides excellent guidance on how to prepare your mussels, including removal of the byssal threads, or "beard".

Do make sure all of your mussel shells are firmly closed and undamaged. Test any open shellfish for signs of life by tapping on the shell or gently prodding the creature with a blunt knife inserted into the opening. If the shell does not close, the mussel is dead and should be discarded.

The real secret of this dish is to use fresh herbs. Carefully remove the leaves from broad-leaf parsley (left) and thyme (right) and chiffonade (finely shread) the parsley. The thyme doesn't need to be cut, even if it's as large-leafed as the bunch I was lucky enough to find for my St. Patrick's Eve meal.

If you are unable to use fresh herbs, use an equivalent quantity of dried herbs instead, but fresh is much better.
Just before you start cooking, finely chop your shallots and cloves of garlic.

OK - so could could use any butter, but why spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar? This is a great Irish dish and it deserves a great Irish butter.
Gently sweat off the shallots and garlic for about 3 minutes in a pan with the butter, adding a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Make sure you use a pan large enough to take all of the mussels later on and allow plenty of room for steaming.

Just before the end, add about half of your freshly chopped herbs and break a bay leaf into the pan.

No, you're not seeing double. Only one of these 440ml cans is needed for the cooking, but no self-respecting chef would ever be caught consuming alcohol in the kitchen, so the second can should be set aside to quench the thirst of any visiting leprechauns.
As soon as the shallots are translucent, put all of the cleaned mussels into the pan and pour in the Guinness.

Turn up the heat so that the liquid comes to the boil and then turn the heat back down, cover the pan and allow the mussels to steam for 2-3 minutes.

You will know when the mussels are cooked, as they will all open. Stir occasionally while they are steaming. Once the cooking is complete, fold in the cream.

At this point, add the rest of your herbs.

Taste the broth and adjust your seasoning if necessary.
Now quickly turn out your mussels into pre-heated bowls and pour a lavish helping of the Guinness and cream broth over them.

Mussels get cold quickly, so serve immediately.

Crusty fresh-baked bread rolls make the perfect accompaniment to this fantastic Irish dish.