A parcel of mussels

There’s another, even more impressive-looking version of the previous dish, which is easier to prepare — crepes instead of puff pastry — and can be made well in advance. In the end, it looks like a purse. Flavour and wit together. It was one of the most consistent dishes on the old restaurant menu, and one of the most consistently applauded. It does take a little effort and skill, but it is still worth it. The applause will be deafening.


100g flour

1 teaspoon sugar pinch of salt

250ml milk

2 eggs

1 dessertspoon oil


60 mussels

1 lemon, sliced

150g butter, softened

200g almonds, chopped finely

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

bunch of basil, leaves removed from the stems

2 chillies

½ cup cream

12 cherry tomatoes

150g sugar peas

1 leek


I’ve had my highs and lows with crepes. Often they have stuck to the pan, or been too thick, or burnt. But if you get organised, and do it with coolness and care, nothing can go wrong. If you have a seasoned crepe pan, then good luck to you. If not, just clean assiduously a heavy-bottomed pan and wipe it thinly with oil.


Mix all the crepe ingredients together, whisking lightly so as to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside in the fridge for a few hours.


When you are set to go, heat the pan until it is too hot to touch. The best way to make sure the crepes are thin is to pour on some batter, then pour it off straight away. Let the crepe cook until the top bubbles a little. Lift the side to check. Flip with an egg slide or spatula. Feed the first one to the dog. It always disappoints. Keep making until you run out of batter.


Steam the mussels in a little water and lemon slices until they open, discarding any which do not open. Remove the beards as you pull the mussels free. Retain some of the mussel ‘milk’, straining to remove any sand.


Knead together the butter, almonds, garlic and basil.


Whizz together 20 of the mussels, one chilli and the cream until it comes together, just holding its own. It will be neither runny nor thick.


Chop the cherry tomatoes and the sugar peas and mix with the rest of the mussels in a bowl. Add the mussel cream to coat the lot, mixing through with a wooden spoon. Now to bring it all together. Blanch the green top of the leek in boiling water and slice into ’strings’.


In the middle of a crepe, put a decent nob of the almond-basil butter and a handful of the mussel vegetable mix on top, allowing 5 mussels per person. Gather the edges of the crepe together, enveloping the mussels and the mix, and tie securely with the leek ’string’.


Bake in a 200°C oven for 15–20 minutes. The job is to get the contents heated through, not to provide any more cooking. You may have to cover the top with foil to stop it from burning. Serve with a little melted butter and lemon sauce, as before.


If you can’t be bothered making crepes, you can get a similar result, with less work, using filo pastry. Just follow the filo instructions on the packet and start from step 4.

WINE: Rhine riesling from the cooler areas — Eden Valley, Clare, Coonawarra or central Victorian Highlands. You are looking for the lime/lemon floral character these wines display when young.