A great Seafood Starter – Mussel and Clam stuffed Brioche – Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

The popular misconception is that Marie Antoinette famously said of the starving French peasants at her gates, “Let them eat cake”. What she actually said was actually “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. In France, the home of this delicious enriched dough, brioche is properly served as a breakfast cake. In fact, brioche is a hybrid, part bread part cake, it is made in the same way as you make bread, with the addition of eggs and butter and can also have extra sugar added for a sweeter flavour. The technical term for this pastry cum sweet, buttery dough is Viennoiserie, which includes all of those lovely, if rather naughty breakfast treats, like pain aux chocolate and croissants.

I love the stuff, brioche is amazingly versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, used as a pastry and the basis of many desserts. Golden brown, freshly baked brioche can be filled with raisins or chocolate chips, simply spread with extra butter and strawberry or apricot jam or as is increasingly popular as a wonderful bun for a burger. As a pastry brioche reaches a height of culinary naughtiness and a decadence that maybe would have shamed even the haughty Marie Antoinette. Wrapped around Cervelas de Lyon, truffle flavoured sausages to you and me, fillet steak or luxurious foie gras mousseline. The most celebrated brioche recipe, Coulibiac, is a type of Russian pie filled with sturgeon, buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. Brioche in history was truly fit for kings and queens even if they did not live to enjoy it.

Brioche Bread
Fresh Brioche Loaf

For my recipe, I need you to get hold of four large brioche buns and resist any temptation to toast them and spread with pate or jam. We are going a little a la Robert Carrier and all 1970’s and using them as a bowl to be filled with plump mussels and clams in a full flavoured broth. Old fashioned it may be, but it is a show stopper and terrifically tasty to boot and once you’ve done it I am sure it will become a favourite. Enjoy.

Mussel and Clams in Brioche
Fresh Mussel and Clam Stew in Brioche

Mussel and Clam Stew stuffed Brioche Buns serves 4

Fresh quality mussels and clams are readily available at all good fishmongers. Preparing mussels and clams is not a difficult job or something to fear. Under a slow running, tap scrape off any limpets or items stuck to the shells with a small sharp knife. Some mussels may have a small bushy beard pushed out of the shell. Grabbed between the knife blade and your thumb, a sharp tug should remove it. Wash all the prepared mussels and clams under the tap for a couple more minutes and drain. You can store them in the bottom of your fridge covered with damp kitchen paper until needed.

4 Brioche Buns

1 kg Fresh Mussels

½ kg Fresh Clams

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small handful of fresh Dill

200 ml thick Double Cream

50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )

25 ml Olive Oil

25 gr Butter

1 fresh Egg

Juice of one fresh Lemon

Freshly ground Black Pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight-fitting lid ), melt the butter and add the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heatproof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Very carefully using a bread knife cut the top quarter of your brioche buns off to form lids. Using a small knife cut into the bottoms of the brioche buns then scoop out the majority of the interior. This can be saved to make sweet breadcrumbs to use on desserts. Whisk the egg with a little cold water in a small bowl, then brush all over the inside, outside and lids of the buns. Place on a silicone baking tray and bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes.

When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Add the mussels and clams and gently heat in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required.

Place the brioche rolls onto deep lipped plates or bowls and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.

 

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? This is a rich seafood dish and pairs well with the classic accompaniment for mussels, dry wines such as Muscadet or German-style Riesling wines or a cloudy Continental beer such as Hoegaarden.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk Oyster   Eggs

Please see the Allergens Page

 
 

 

Devilled Kidneys and Toast

Devilled Lambs Kidneys on toasted English Breakfast Muffin

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It is often said that the Devil has all the good tunes, Rock ‘n’ Roll was denounced as the Devils music and even a whole genre ( heavy metal ) is believed to be almost utterly devoted to his Satanic majesty. Think of ‘ Devil Inside ‘, ‘ Sympathy for the Devil ‘ and ‘ Devil with the Blue dress on ‘. * Now there are obviously some great tub-thumping hymns devoted to the singing the praises for other side, and I love belting out a good hymn, but my money is with the big bad red guy as far as music goes. But this has set my mind racing what about food? What meals sustain the heavenly host and what fuels the fires of the ole devil and which is best? Americans are rightly proud of their Angel Cakes and almost every party must have a tray of Devilled eggs but what other ethereal recipes are there?

* INXS, The Rolling Stones and Van Halen

The Charlie Daniels Band and surely the devils greatest tune

In the grand tradition of Edwardian English dinning before even I was a trainee, a savoury course ended formal dinner party menus and quite often this comprised of Angels and Devils on Horseback. The former are oysters wrapped in bacon and the latter pitted dates stuffed with mango chutney similarly enclosed, both are grilled or baked and served on hot buttered toast garnished with watercress. I am exceedingly partial to both Angels and Devils so the result of this contest is a draw. But I am glad to say I do have a winner, one of my favourite all-time dishes Devilled Lambs Kidneys.

Devilled Kidneys and Toast
Devilled Lambs Kidneys

Like the ubiquitous eggs, the spicy ham of the same name and countless other dishes a devilled dish like Devilled Lambs Kidneys has a piquant, spicy flavour usually from the addition of Cayenne pepper and / or strong mustard. In a biography published in 1791, Samuel Johnson’s biographer James Boswell referred to partaking of a dish of “devilled bones” for supper. The bones were generally those of cold poultry, game or beef. The pieces of meat were covered with what was then called devil sauces. This is probably the earliest published use of the word “devil” as a cooking term meaning “to cook something with hot spices or condiments. Most Food historians believe that the term was adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell.

Devilled Lambs Kidneys on Toasted English Breakfast Muffin             serves 4

Of all the offal available with the possible exception of Sweetbreads, kidneys are my personal favourite, from a delicious calves’ kidney roasted in a blanket of its own fat to sweet lambs kidneys pan-fried on toast. Kidneys are best flash fried very quickly over a high heat or braised nice and slowly. As offal kidneys are best consumed within 24 hours of purchase. Devilled Lambs Kidneys are a delicious starter, suitable for a light supper or an indulgent breakfast dish.

8 English Breakfast Muffins

12 Lambs Kidneys ( ask your butcher to trim them )

A little milk

2 small Shallots, peeled and very finely diced,

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small glass of Brandy

100 ml very thick Double Cream

50 gr Butter

A good glug of quality Olive Oil

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3 – 4 tablespoons Plain Flour

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper ( more if you wish )

A generous shake of Worcestershire Sauce

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

First, prepare your kidneys by cutting them in half and removing the veins with a small sharp knife or sharp scissors. If your butcher will do this for you even better, just ask him for 8 halved and trimmed kidneys. Place the prepared kidneys in a small plastic container and cover with milk to soak out any remaining bitterness. Cover and place in refrigerator.

Cut your muffins in half and heat a glug of olive oil and half the butter in a large, thick-bottomed, sauté pan. Sauté the muffins on both sides until golden brown, remove drain on kitchen paper and keep warm. Drain the kidneys and pat dry with more kitchen paper. Mix the flour, Cayenne and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper together and thoroughly dredge the prepared kidneys.

Heat the remaining oil and butter together in a second large, sauté pan and cook the shallot without colouring until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a couple more minutes stirring occasionally then add the kidneys and cook quickly until the kidneys change colour and start to brown.  Flip the kidneys over and add the brandy and flame off the alcohol then add the mustard. Stir continuously and pour in the cream and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for two minutes to cook out and slightly thicken the sauce then remove from the heat. Check and correct the seasoning and add a little more cayenne if you like a bigger kick.

Place a toasted muffin on each plate to with the devilled kidneys and sauce on top, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Pol Roger Champagne

What to Drink? The Devilled Kidneys served at the renowned chef Fergus Henderson’s London restaurant St. Johns are paired with Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Champagne 2004, which is perhaps a little expensive so I will settle for their other suggestion a glass of Black Velvet.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk  Mustard

Please see the Allergens Page