Tag Archives: Mussels

The Clog and Billycock – Pleasington, Blackburn

“These RVI (Ribble Valley Inns) pubs are still doing it well, though others are cathcing up”

Been to a few of these, there are four in total. The Three Fishes in Mitton was our first. They all boast high standards of produce from local artisans. Images of Jeff and his bangers, Mavis and her sourdough and others adorn the walls  to emphasise the deal. The Clog and Billycock in sleepy Pleasington, a rural village on the outskirts of Blackburn, maintains the tradition.
Another feature of them all is the smart decor and impressive fit out materials. No nailed on OSB and cheap ply in the Ribble Valley Inn group. Veneered, light oaks and high end fabrics create a sumptuous feel.
The menus and food are great too. Its extensive Lancashire based fayre. Nigel Howarth’s hot pot, fish and chips, black puddings, scotch eggs, they’re all here. As it happens we chose from the rather inviting separately printed, spring menu.
The Flame had wonderfully spiced chicken livers on sourdough, my slightly disappointing start was a rather dry fish cake, with an equally dry egg, which was, however, just saved by the swamp of creamy leeks that it sat on.

Mains were a triumph. Super fish pie whilst I had the best moules frites since an alfresco lunch in Lille in 1990!
I finished with the delightful white chocolate and lemon curd posset which came festooned with spring fruits.
Since we went a few weeks back the press later announced that the Northcote/Nigel Haworth alliance was selling the four RVI emporiums. I hope they go to a good home and maintain the standard. They are a rare treat.

The Clog & Billycock
Billinge End Rd,
T 01254 201163


George’s ‘Pipi’ Fritters

To explain, George is the handsome cove who demonstrated this fabulous, fresh, seafood recipe to me. He (along with his wonderful wife Carol) had just happened to have built a stunning beach side villa in a place called Opoutere in The Coromandel area of New Zealand’s north island. I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to visit this incredible area of the world to do so forthwith. By some strange quirk of good fortune, I got to spend three days in this paradise.

Collecting on the beach, collecting in the bucket and hand

Paphies australis or pipi (from the Māori language) is a bivalve mollusc (so it says here!) which is endemic to New Zealand. The pipi is a shellfish with a solid white, elongated symmetrical shell with the apex at the middle. (To me it was a big clam).
The pipi is abundant on flat sandy beaches, where there is considerable water flow (or in other words just at the back of George’s beach villa!)
By releasing a thread of mucus, which makes them more buoyant, they can move about a bit by floating. They can get up to more than 1000 individuals per square metre. (I can vouch for that! There was loads of them just under us!). You simply rummage around in the sand with your hand at low tide and pick them out. Then throw into George’s bucket! (Mind you don’t get nipped by the crabs though! There’s tons of them too…)

Ingredients (makes around 12 fritters)

Half a bucket of freshly picked Pipis from the low outgoing tide of the Pacific Ocean, preferably in New Zealand. Ours weighed in at about 500g. I reckon you could use a ton of clams or even mussels instead.
2 eggs
Tablespoon of flour
Splash of fish sauce
Pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder and/or chilli powder (to taste. Chopped jalapenos could work well too I reckon)
Oil for frying

1) Leave overnight in clean water. The tentacles will come out and spit all the sand and waste out.
2) Clean and rinse.
3) In a shallow pan, bring an inch of water to a gentle boil. Place the Pipis in batches into the water and wait a few minutes for them to open. Remove with tongs as they open and place in a separate bowl. Repeat until all open.

The tentacles, steaming, opening up, removing the meat

4) Remove all the meat and discard the shells. This is easy using a your finger thumb. Take care not to eat too many while doing this. They taste wonderful and sweet even at this stage!
5) Finely chop, or ideally mince into a rough paste. (George has a fine old hand mincer)
6) Mix in a bowl with the eggs, flour, fish sauce, pepper, sugar and spices to create a sloppy paste

Mincing, mixing, dolloping in the pan

7) Cover the bottom of the pan with oil for shallow frying. Heat until smoking.
8) Spoon a good dollop into the pan and flatten down to create a patty around 6-8mm thick. You should be able to do 4 at a time. Fry 3-4 mins on one side until golden brown underneath. Flip carefully with a spatula and repeat.
9) Place on kitchen paper and keep warm.

We served with sweet chilli sauce, but I’m sure other dips would work too…
I ate mine with my hands.

Mussels – Collecting, Cooking and Eating

I remember watching a programme on telly, can’t remember what but basically this rather well spoken cove was cruising down the Menai straits off Anglesey dredging for mussels. He pointed out to the cameras that Anglesey is the home of mussels. They are shipped all over the world, everywhere but here in the UK! A year or two later The Flame and I spent New Year in a cottage just off the beach in Red Wharf Bay. I asked our landlord where I could buy Anglesey mussels? He simply said “if you wait a couple of hours, I get mine from those rocks over there”. Well that was me sorted, the tide went down and there they where, great clumps of plump, purple mussels clinging gamely to rocks, glistening in the sun. I was in heaven.

As it was December the time was ripe to pick. Apparently, you only collect mussels when there is an ‘r’ in the month (i.e. not in May, June, July or August). By picking outside the summer months you give them a chance to breed. It’s also better for us ‘chompers’ because there’s likely to be less bacteria present in cooler waters. As this was a nice beach, it was unlikely that there was many toxins knocking about. Mussels are filter feeders, if they are eating in nasty places, near sewage outlets etc, there’s a chance they’ll be pretty nasty to eat. Pregnant young ladies should avoid eating mussels full stop!
 I pitched onto the beach with a bucket. I looked out for larger mussels, as these are likely to have had a chance to have their leg over and get some younger ones on the go. After all sustainability is what we should all be about as well! I wouldn’t go for massive mussels as some reckon the meat is not as tasty.
I soaked my mussels overnight after scrubbing all the barnacles off with a the back of a knife and ripping off their ‘beards’ (byssus threads). All this after rinsing well. Very important, any that are open after this little prewash I discarded. Of course, once they’re cooked, I discard any that are closed. If you do want to purge them, however, to get out grit and sand, place the mussels in a bowl of salted cold water overnight, and they will ‘filter’ themselves clean.
There are loads of ways to enjoy mussels. Apparently, you could grill or barbeque them for a delicious smoky flavour, but I always do the traditional French Moules marinières. Here’s the recipe I used.
Moules marinières
Ingredients (serves two or three, as a starter, depending how hungry everyone is)
About 60 (foraged) mussels
1 small red onion (I didn’t have a shallot) peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced or finely diced
1 glass white wine
3–5 sprigs of thyme
1 small carton single cream (or crème fraîche)
Knob of butter and a glug of olive oil (1 tbsp)
Salt and pepper (might not need the salt)
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan (which has a lid) over a medium heat.
Add the onion and soften.
Add the garlic a few minutes later, so you don’t burn it, then the mussels, wine and thyme.
Pop the lid on and leave to simmer, keeping an eye on the mussels to see when they start to open. This will take around 10–15 minutes.
Remove the lid and taste the juice to see if it needs seasoning or not, then add the cream or crème fraîche, just heating through but not cooking. Remember to discard any mussels which are still closed at the end. I had one when I did it.
Pour into a big dish, put in the centre of the table and serve with a crusty baguette for dipping into the white wine and garlic broth that will be left when you’ve plundered the mussels.
Give it a go. Obviously take care if you are foraging them. Otherwise just get from your fishmonger or at a pinch your local supermarket!