Mussels Steamed with Wine & Tarragon

A variation on the French classic Moules Mariniere this simple speedy dish is sharp and sophisticated


  1. Tip the mussels into a colander in a sink under a cold running tap. Put a large bowl nearby. Rinse the shells well. Scrub them with a nail brush or scrape them with a small knife to clean the surface. Any barnacle shells can be scraped off but I tend to leave the small ones. If any mussels have black threads (beards) tug them out. Drop the mussels into the bowl as you go. Once finished, rinse them all again under cold water. Discard all mussels with cracked shells.
  2. Tap any open mussels on a hard surface. If they don’t close tight completely, discard them.
  3. Peel and dice the shallots. Slice 2 cloves of garlic and crush the other 2. Measure out the butter and wine before you start to cook. Have the other ingredients close to hand.
  4. Organise any extras such as chips or bread or mayo and warm serving bowls before you cook.


  1. Take a saucepan or pasta pan or casserole that’s big enough to take all the mussels. If you don’t have the right size, split the quantities between 2 pans and cook simultaneously.
  2. Melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes until soft and translucent. Don’t let them brown up.
  3. Increase the heat to high. Add the wine or Noilly Prat. Boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Tip the mussels into the pan with 1/3 of the tarragon. Clamp the lid on. Cook over full heat for 2 minutes. Shake and shuffle it a couple of times. Open and stir the mussels so they cook evenly and to check they’re opening. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Using a large, preferably slotted, spoon, share the mussels out between the warm bowls. Set aside in a warm place.
  6. Tip the cream into the cooking liquor. Add the mustard and lemon if using. Tear the tarragon in. Boil the mix for a minute or two. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the liquid over the bowls of steaming mussels. Take them to the table.


  1. Sit the hot bowls on plates. Eat with spoon and fork or use 2 shells to pinch the mussel meat out. Soak up the delicious liquor with chunks of hot bread (ciabatta or baguette). These are also great with deep-fry frites, shallow-fry chips or potato wedges for oven baking. Put a large plate or dish on the table to take the shells.

Useful Cooking Information


Metric Imperial
10 g½ oz
20 g¾ oz
25 g1 oz
50 g2 oz
75 g3 oz
110 g4 oz
150 g5 oz
175 g6 oz
200 g7 oz
225 g8 oz
250 g9 oz
275 g10 oz
350 g12 oz
450 g1 lb
500 g (½ kg)18 oz
700 g1½ lb
900 g2 lb
1 kg2¼ lb
1.3 kg3 lb
1.8 kg4 lb
2.2 kg5 lb


Metric Imperial
50 ml2 fl oz
75 ml3 fl oz
100 ml3½ fl oz
125 ml4 fl oz
150 ml5 fl oz¼ pint
200 ml7 fl oz
250 ml9 fl oz
300 ml10 fl oz½ pint
425 ml15 fl oz¾ pint
600 ml20 fl oz1 pint
800 ml1½ pint
1 l1¾ pints
1.2 l2 pints
1.5 l2½ pints
1.8 l3 pints
2 l3½ pints


Metric Imperial
5 mm¼ inch
1 cm½ inch
2 cm¾ inch
2.5 cm1 inch
3 cm1¼ inches
4 cm1½ inches
5 cm2 inches
10 cm3 inches
15 cm4 inches
20.5 cm6 inches
23 cm9 inches
25 cm10 inches
30 cm12 inches

Spoon measures - mean level measures unless the recipe says 'heaped'

Eggs - are always large for baking, unless recipe says otherwise

Oven Temperatures

Gas °F °C
Mark 1275140

Fan assisted ovens - remember to reduce temperatures by 20°C

Most Useful US/European Conversions

ButterUS 1 cup / 2 sticks8 oz220 g
SugarUS 1 cup6 oz175 g
FlourUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
LiquidUS 1 cup8 fl oz225 ml
Prepped OnionsUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
Cheese, GratedUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
Diced FruitUS 1 cup5 oz150 g
Fresh BreadcrumbsUS 1 cup2 oz55 g

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