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Neil Forbes's mussels with garlic, shallots, cream and tarragon

Enjoy the flavours of France with this simple classic, says Neil Forbes

Published: July 4, 2015

I am a lucky guy, enjoying what I do for a living so much. I was recently in France, probably the grandmother of cuisine in Britain. I’ll confess, it was a bit of a jolly as I was invited to the 24 hour car race, Le Mans. Sadly not to race, but as a spectator. However, I did ride my wonderful British motorcycle all the way there, stopping off en route for coffee and pastries, and lovely lunches in quaint villages with town square cafes serving the best food and drink to locals and visitors alike.

What stands out is the simplicity of the dishes these small bistros and cafes produce, and the pride they take in it. Every village has its own little patisseries serving incredible chocolates and bread, and beautiful boucheries with impeccable window displays of meat, poultry and game

There’s no doubt France is a nation of food and wine lovers. Whether it is coq au vin, a cassoulet or an almond croissant and a strong coffee, they still do the classics very well. It has always been an inspiring cuisine and having a restaurant with a French name, it’s hard not to be influenced by it. Hence our Café Classic section on the Cafe St Honore daily menu – it’s our nod to the ‘plat du jour’ – or what is good now. Simple and classic.

So this month I’m sharing three authentic French recipes using the finest Scottish produce, so you can create a little of bit of France at home.


Mussels are the perfect fast food. They don’t take long to cook, are tasty and healthy, and are a great base to add different flavours to.

1 Clean the mussels and remove the beards, then place them in a large pot with a lid on a very hot stove. Add the shallots, wine and garlic.

2 Cook with the lid on for a few minutes until the mussels start to open then add the cream. Continue to cook until all the mussels open. Any that haven’t opened, either discard or check to see if they are good by prising them open.

Modern Scottish recipe: Roast salmon with wilted spinach and Old Pulteney whisky cream reduction

3 Add the chopped tarragon and a squeeze of lemon (if you like). Don’t mix them too much, just give them a shake in the pot. Serve at once whilst they’re steaming and hot. Enjoy with a glass of the same wine you used to cook them. And remember those finger bowls!


  • 1kg Shetland blue shell mussels
  • 1 large banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 100ml white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 250ml double cream
  • a small handful of chopped fresh tarragon
  • a squeeze of lemon (optional)
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