Looking for an easy, yet delicious Sunday night meal while you are travelling. Then check out my French Provincial Vegetables and Mussels Recipe. Although it is French-inspired, you can pick up these ingredients all over the world and many different markets.
Markets! I can’t rave enough about markets, about the products, the colour, the atmosphere, the hustle, the haggling, the people – all of it. My favourite type of market is food markets, especially if I am in a country which has different types of produce to those I know from back home. I love to look at all of the different vegetables, herbs and spices, fruits and items which I class as “miscellaneous” – such as mushrooms. Watch how people negotiate and purchase basket loads of goods. There is something so familiar yet alien in a new market. You have to spend time working out which cheese guy has the best cheese, which vegetable guy to go to for tomatoes and which one to go to for beans. These are all things you can only ask by trial and error, its like roulette with food!
When shopping at a new market, I like to spread out my purchases amongst as many different stalls as possible. Primarily because I love the interaction with the stall keeps – miming what I want, negotiating, chatting and then moving on. It’s so personal and yet very business like.
One of the best experiences I have had at a market was in a provincial French town called St Girons. Its located in the south of France at the base of the Pyrenees. I spent a week here just relaxing, it’s quite easy and affordable even on a backpackers budget. The town itself is beautiful, with old architecture and a crystal clear river running right through the middle. Add in one of the regions largest market days and you have what is possibly one of the best mornings out this backpacker could ask for. I flittered from Paella cauldron to baguette seller then onto sample some cheese and then, of course, some chocolate. There were olives and fish, pumpkins and mushrooms, cured hams and soft cheeses… it was culinary heaven.
In the end, I was forced to leave due to the fact that I literally couldn’t carry anymore. I had spent two hours practising my broken French and buying half the market – yet I only spent 30 Euros. This then fed me and a friend for 8 days… we only went to the shops to buy wine. Breaking that down that 1.8 euros a day on food… now can you understand why I shop at markets!
One of the easiest and most delicious recipes that I threw together after my market excursion was this French provincial vegetables and mussels recipe. I am a big fan of mussels and can’t recommend them enough as a way to eat cheap, easy and healthy when travelling – Goon Garlic Mussels is one of my favourites. For this recipe, I wanted to use some vegetables that would soak up the delicious sauce that I would create to steam the mussels – so naturally, I turned to broccoli.
It’s a comfortable meal for 4 or if you have it as an entrée or light lunch you could feed 6 – either way its a group meal best shared amongst friends who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
A tip on cooking mussels: If you buy fresh mussels they may look open before you cook them. This is because they are still alive and are getting sleepy from being out of the water, therefore struggling to keep their shells shut. They are a muscle after all. Tap the shell a few times with the back of a spoon, they should close – some will snap shut while others will slowly pull their doors closed. If they don’t do anything at all, leave them to one side while you clean the rest. Check on them at the end – if still open, chuck them away.
- 3 rashers of bacon chopped into 1cm squares
- 1 head of Broccoli - broken into bite sized pieces
- Brussel sprouts - halved
- White wine
- Olive oil or butter
- Garlic finely - diced
- 1 small onion - diced
- 2 tomatos - diced
- 1kg of fresh mussels
- Clean your mussels thoroughly and remove any cracked or broken ones.
- In a large pot heat some butter or oil, add bacon.
- Once bacon is beginning to brown add garlic and onion cook on low heat until onion becomes soft
- Add in the vegetables and a small slurp of the white wine
- Simmer for about 2 minutes then bring the heat back up - liquid should almost be gone
- Add in about a cup more of the white wine
- Throw the mussels into the steaming mixture and put a lid on the pot.
- Cook for about 2 minutes or until the mussels have opened
- Serve with fresh crusty bread and eat with fingers
- 1 large pot with lid
- 1 knife
- 8 Euros - feeds 4 people so thats 2 Euros per person
- If you don't have a pot lid you can use tin foil or baking paper. I also improvise with using a bigger frying pan or a large baking tray.
- If the mussels are really fresh they may appear open before cooking- this is because they are still alive and having trouble getting water and oxygen, to test that they are still good, tap the shell a few times, if they don't start to close then they may be bad. Generally though they will slam shut.