Eclade de Moules
:Eclade des moules originates from the Charente-Maritime region of France. Here, the pine forests run into the beautiful Ile de Ré beaches, which run into the Atlantic ocean.
This is an identical set-up to one of our favourite nearby spots, Newborough beach, just down the road from Halen Môn. Added to that, the fact that Anglesey grows some of the best mussels around, makes it the perfect dish to eat on the salty island. This is a simple barbecue dish that is perfect to prepare in a large group. Everyone can help out in the assembly and the ‘cooking’ is spectacular. More than just being a piece of theatre, it also delivers a delicious way to enjoy mussels. The sweetness of the mussels is complemented by a smoky pine aroma. It doesn’t take a genius to see why fishermen have been preparing mussels like this for years.
- 2kg/4lb 6.oz live mussels
- A wooden board large enough to hold the mussels
- A few nails and a hammer
Enough dry pine needles to cover mussels to a depth of about 15cm/6in (they need to be really, really dry, so if in doubt, collect them ahead of time and dry at home), a large bagful should do the trick.
As this dish needs to be cooked outside, preferably on a beach, please make sure you are well away from any trees or anything that could be caught by the flames. Scrub the mussels under cold running water.
Remove the beards and discard any mussels that are broken or don’t close after a firm tap on a hard surface.
Lay your wooden board flat on the ground or on a stable platform. In the middle of the board, fix four nails in a square about 2.5cm/1in apart. Ask your helpers to arrange the mussels, hinge-side up until the entire board is covered or you have run out of mussels. Using the nails to support the first mussels, you will quickly be able to create concentric rings of mussels and it will end up looking like an art installation.
If it doesn’t and they keep falling over, put down your wine and use both hands! It’s important that the mussels are arranged hinge-side up so that once they are cooked, the ash does not get into the flesh.
Once all the mussels are laid out, cover them with the dry pine needles, about 15cm/6in deep so they are completely covered. When you are ready, light the needles from a number of different points. They will take a short while to catch but when they do, they will burn ferociously, so do be careful and stand back. The intense heat will boil the seawater in the shells and steam the mussels. Let the pine needles burn out. it will usually take 5–6 minutes, then gently blow away the remaining ash. After a few minutes to let the shells cool, discard any mussels that haven’t opened during cooking, then invite your guests forward to help themselves with their fingers.
Cold drinks and bread are all that’s needed to accompany.
NOTE: This is as much a guide as it is a recipe and will feed four as a dramatic main course. To scale up to feed an entire party allocate roughly 250g/9oz mussels per person for a starter or as part of a spread, and 500g/1lb 2oz per person if it’s a main event.