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Moules marinières

As I sit here, eight and a half months pregnant, packing a hospital bag with massive pants (me) and tiny cardigans (baby), I can’t help but think about missed opportunities to pack a bag for less hurty experiences.

Why hasn’t this backpack accompanied me inter-railing around Eastern Europe, or island hopping across Asia? Te main reason is, travelling never really appealed. I was perfectly happy to forgo the experience of being off my tits at a full moon party, or getting the shits on an exotic island, in favour of an occasional city break and civilised toilet facilities. But now that I face 18 years of Centre Parks and Disneyland Paris, I can’t help but wonder whether I should have taken my chances.

I think, as in most situations, the thing which appeals to me most about travel is the food. Te experience of different ingredients, different flavours. Sometimes disgusting, always educating. In travel memoirs and TV cookery shows, the featured chef always manages to seek out the most spectacular local Trattoria, street stall, or backstreet delicatessen. Tere they find friendly, rosy cheeked patrons, who are more than happy to host the bumbling English crew and serve up a smorgasbord of simple yet delectable treats. If you’re Rick Stein, then getting a plate of delicious grub in Kathmandu is a piece of piss.

But when you’re an awkward, sarcastic food blogger, the experience doesn’t always match up. You stroll into the local Trattoria only to find it full of chain smoking, seventy year old men who look at you like you’ve got a cock drawn on your forehead. You approach an authentic kebab stall only to see a stray and mangy dog cock its leg against the cool box containing the minced lamb. And the backstreet delicatessen is apparently on a constant siesta, the opening hours known only to the local mafia (and Rick Stein). Nine times out of ten you end up in a sterile, overpriced refectory setting, noshing a cheese and ham toasty, due to awkwardness, distrust or convenience. Tis is why cookery books and the

internet are so fucking marvellous. Airlines might not let me board their planes right now through fear that I’ll explode a baby all over them, but I can create a taste of far flung lands right here in the Golden Triangle. Tanks to my shelves and my saucepans I can travel further than my purse would ever allow, from the comfort of my own kitchen. Whilst the excitement might not last past the indigestion, it’s as good as it’s gonna get right now.

Moules marinières provides me with the perfect amount of je ne sais quoi to see me through this itchy footedness. And whilst it feels like jet-setting, mini-break fodder, you can of course source the main ingredient within the fair shores of Norfolk.

Two tips I will impart on you. One: see if you can get your fishmonger to prep and de-beard the mussels for you (it’s like pulling very stubborn pubes out of a plug hole). Two: serve with a mound of fries - to dip in the broth - because if you’re anything like me, you might decide half way through that mussels actually taste of phlegm and you don’t like them very much.

Morgan Pickard


Slug of olive or rapeseed oil Knob of butter

2 banana shallots, finely sliced 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped Approx 1kg mussels

1 small glass of white wine Slosh of double cream

Handful of chopped parsley METHOD

N.B. I don’t have the word

count to tell you how to prep mussels and not poison

yourselves, so please do a google, if you’re in doubt.

Heat the oil and butter in a

large, lidded pan, on a medium heat, and fry the shallots and

then the garlic. When they are softened, turn up the heat and add in the mussels and the

wine and season. Put the lid on the pan and cook for about 4

minutes, giving the pan a good shake several times. When all the mussels are open (discard any which don’t), stir in the parsley and cream and serve.

Morgan writes her own, hilarious blog on the internet. You can visit it and do a laugh wee wee at 36 /November 2013/

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