Mussel 'popcorn' with black sauce

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These mussel fritters are ridiculously moreish and can be whipped up in less than an hour. Cooked mussels are folded into a choux pastry mix, which is then deep-fried until crispy. The black sauce is reminiscent of tartare, adding some welcome acidity to the 'popcorn'. Try swapping out the mussels for clams, crab or any other shellfish and play around with the herbs for a different final flavour.

First published in 2019




Mussel popcorn

  • 500g of live mussels, or 150g of cooked mussel meat
  • 150g of plain flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 100g of unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 bunch of basil, or dill, chopped
  • oil, for deep-frying

Black sauce


Begin by cooking the mussels – you can skip this step if using pre-cooked mussel meat. Scrub and de-beard the live mussels, discarding any that remain open when tapped. Tip into a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a splash of water. Cover and leave to steam for 5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened. Drain the mussels (reserving the liquor) and discard any that remain closed. Remove the meat from the mussels and set aside – you will need 150g of mussel meat for this recipe
For the black sauce, place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Once simmering, blend with a hand blender until smooth and dark grey in colour. Transfer to a bowl or jug and set aside (this sauce can be prepared in advance)
Measure the cooking liquor and, if needed, top up with cold water until you have 250ml (if you’re using pre-cooked meat, simply use 250ml water). Pour into a pan with the butter and bring to the boil. Sieve the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and, when the water is boiling, quickly tip the mixture into the pan
Stir well with a wooden spoon, then remove from the heat. Beat the mixture for a few minutes until it forms a ball and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, until smooth and shiny
Chop the cooked mussel meat and stir into the choux pastry along with the basil (or dill). Preheat a deep pan of oil or deep-fat fryer to 180°C
  • 1/2 bunch of basil, or dill, chopped
  • oil, for deep-frying
Use a tablespoon to form small balls of the choux mixture and drop them into the oil. Cook for around 5 minutes, or until golden and fluffy (you may need to work in batches) and season with salt. Serve the popcorn immediately with the sauce on the side for dipping

Pascal Aussignac left France with business partner Vincent Labeyrie to champion 'la cuisine de Gascogne' at his restaurant, Club Gascon, in 1998.

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