Recipe: Mussel Brose by Shirley Spear, The Three Chimneys, Colbost, Isle of Skye

‘My Mussel Brose is based upon a traditional recipe I developed for The Three Chimneys during our earliest years. It matched my ambition to cook and serve traditional Scottish dishes in a modern way and was always a huge hit with customers. My family and I love it too. I remember one man who had a bowlful for starters, finished his steak main course and sent a special request to the kitchen for seconds of Mussel Brose for his pudding, as it tasted so good.  Needless to say, it was served without question! A “brose” refers to a dish made with hot liquid, thickened with oatmeal and containing milk, cream or butter. This one includes the mussels and white wine too, of course.’

-Shirley Spear, SLTN Industry Achievement Award Winner 2017

Stage one: cooking the mussels

2kg mussels, washed and de-bearded under cold running water. Discard any that are cracked or open

50g unsalted Scottish butter

1 large onion, finely diced

4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley

Fresh ground black pepper

300mls dry white wine

200mls water

1. Melt butter in a large pan which has a close-fitting lid.

2. Soften onion and garlic in the hot butter.

3. Stir in chopped parsley and add black pepper.

4. Pour in wine and water and bring to the boil.

5. Add all the mussels, lower the heat, cover with lid and leave to simmer until mussels have steamed open. This will take no more than five minutes. Avoid opening the lid, but give the pan a good shake around once or twice during the steaming process.

6. Stand a colander in a mixing bowl.

7. Using a slotted spoon, lift the mussels from the hot liquor, placing them into the colander. Leave to drain and cool.

8. Ladle the cooking liquor from the pan into a large measuring jug through a fine sieve and reserve. Add any residual liquid from the bowl underneath the colander, straining this through the fine sieve.

9. Rinse out saucepan.

Stage two: making the brose

500g potatoes, weighed when peeled. Choose a floury variety that is good for mash

1 medium onion

1 medium leek

2 sticks of celery plus leaves, taken from near the centre of the bunch

2 fat cloves of garlic

50g unsalted butter

1 rounded tbsp medium oatmeal

150mls single cream

1 heaped tbsp chopped parsley and chives, plus a few chives for final garnish

Seaweed flakes, ground black pepper or a little salt for seasoning, if required

1. Finely chop the onions, celery, garlic and leek, including the green tops.

2. Dice the peeled potatoes into small cubes.

3. Melt the butter until hot and foamy.

4. Soften the onion, celery and leek in the hot butter.

5. Add potatoes and stir together with the vegetables.

6. Allow to cook gently for five minutes, stirring from time to time.

7. Pour in the strained mussel liquor, bring to boiling point and then simmer for 30 minutes.

8. Liquidise at this stage if preferred, or leave the soup to serve as a chunky version.

9. Add oatmeal, stir well and simmer for a further five minutes.

10. Meanwhile, remove the cooled mussels from their shells and reserve in a bowl. Retain a few whole for garnish. (Amongst the mussels there will be some residual chopped onion, garlic and herbs from when they were cooked. This is fine and all can be added to the soup.)

11. Stir in shelled mussels, together with the freshly chopped parsley and chives and some ground black pepper. Salt may not be necessary as the mussel liquor is naturally salty. A teaspoonful of dulse seaweed flakes might be an option, if required.

12. Before serving, stir in the carton of single cream, reheat and check thickness and seasoning. Add a little more hot water if too thick.

13. Serve hot in warmed bowls with whole mussels placed on top for garnish and a pinch of chopped chives on top. With some warm crusty bread, oatcakes or scones, this is a meal-in-one.