It seems everyone craves seafood in summer, relaxing over a barbecue or peeling cooked prawns on a pier, but winter is a fantastic time for it, too - especially shellfish.
They're thick and meaty at this time of year because they've fattened up for the winter. Plus, shellfish are so rich in nutrients, they're sometimes referred to as a winter health tonic. New-season mussels are among my favourite kind of shellfish available in winter. With many now available pre-scrubbed and de-bearded, they really are the ultimate fast food. Simply steamed with white wine, garlic and herbs, then finished with a slug of good crème fraîche, they make a delicious meal in minutes. Don't bother with the old wives' tale about discarding the shells that don't open.
As it steams, the mussel opens when the adductor muscle inside the shell breaks. If that muscle doesn't sever or separate, it's generally just because there's a bigger mussel inside. Closed mussels can be cooked a little longer and you can prise the shell open with a knife.
So, warm the cockles of your heart with a big bowl of new-season mussels this winter.
Here are some mussel recipes to try:
Illustration: Lauren Haire