The magic of Irish mussels

We could still learn a lot from Anthony Bourdain’s moules marinière

Chefs are not renowned for their profusive vocabulary. The economy of words in a busy kitchen is part of what urges everyone on. But Anthony Bourdain was different. He had channelled his energy into wonderful ways of writing and speaking. His voice seemed to carry food further than most, making it travel with him to parts unknown. Food was pleasure, pain, sex and a wonderful drug that could tear down boundaries. His recent death creates a gulf in so many of our lives, not just the cooks and chefs he inspired.

As a self-taught cook I learned much from Bourdain. His Les Halles Cookbook underpins my understanding of French bistro fare. We could still learn a lot from his moules marinière: sweet mussels cooked in garlic, cream and chives.

My daughters have still yet to embrace Irish mussels, although my nephew Rian eats them by the bucketload. When I ask my eldest daughter if she wants a mussel she responds, “How much will you give me if I eat one?” I play along. “I’ll give you €5 if you eat 10 of them.” “That’s not enough,” she says, as if I were trying to poison her. “I’ll eat them if you give me chocolate!” retorts the youngest.

Mussels are a beautiful fast food, and I would happily eat them every day.


To make moules marinière, sweat the onion and garlic in butter and then add white wine. (As always, drink the rest of the bottle. It will you help your relationship with children when they refuse to eat these magical molluscs.) Add a sprig of thyme and the mussels and cover. In a minute they’ll be done. If you want to add cream and chives, do. But don’t worry if you don’t. I like to add dillisk to mine. Of course.

The only thing nicer than a bowl of a mussels is writing about them. Thanks, Anthony.