On the lookout for the ultimate convenience food? Read on!
Until relatively recently the Department of Health was advising us that seafood was bad for our health, but in 2006 government scientists changed their minds and decided it was good for us after all! For over twenty years mussels were considered to be bad for the heart because of high cholesterol levels which are a contributory factor to heart disease. However, research by scientists in America proved this theory to be incorrect and now, in a reversal, we are actively encouraged to consume mussels as being not only good for our health in general, but for our hearts in particular. Full of protein, they are also a good source of iron -they contain more than twice the amount found in red meat, six mussels rendering half the daily recommended dose for women, and the full RDI for men – as well as zinc, iodine, copper selenium and vitamin B12. Mussels are now known to be low in cholesterol and fat. The fat that they do contain is of the healthy unsaturated kind consisting of omega 3 fatty acids. These are instrumental in bringing stability to the heart muscle. They help make the arteries more elastic, which in turn reduces blood pressure. Some doctors are recommending 2/3 portions a week, and there’s even been a suggestion of adding them to the menu for school dinners!
Since the health advice regarding mussels changed, their consumption has surged. However there are reasons other than those pertaining to health why it’s good to eat mussels. At a time when there are increasing concerns about diminishing fish stocks, exactly the opposite is true with regard to mussels. We produce far more than are required in Britain and many are exported to other countries, mainly France, Belgium and Holland. As a sustainable food source they therefore offer an eco-friendly food supply. This is just as much true of farmed mussels where - unlike other sorts of fish farming – captive breeding is not an issue and no chemicals are used.
Their increasing popularity is also thought to be due in part to their promotion by celebrity chefs, such as Rick Stein. People are far more willing to try them, as well as being more informed about how to prepare and cook them. They are in fact easy and quick to cook, taking only minutes, though the wild ones require scrubbing to remove barnacles and beards – the fibrous threads by which the mussels attach themselves to whatever they are growing on. When preparing them, any that do not close on tapping should be discarded. Conversely when cooking, any that do not open should be thrown away. For those of us still not feeling brave enough to attempt the process, most of the major supermarkets stock vacuum packed bags of prepared mussels that can be cooked in the bag in a variety of simple ways in a short space of time.
So. There you have it! As long as you don’t use loads of butter and cream in the cooking process, you can find in mussels the ultimate in healthy, nutritious and sustainable really fast real food. Bon Appétit!