Seafood and cider


Searching for seashells, courtesy Museum of Hartlepool

Searching for seashells, courtesy Museum of Hartlepool

Cider and seafood work at least as well together as fish and white wine and cider can often simply be used instead. Our mussels and clams cider and seafood recipe is loosely based on moules à la normande but uses a medium-dry English cider to balance out the sweetness of the cream. The clams and bacon give it a Portuguese twist. To bring it back to the original, leave them out and use a cidre bouché. Baked cod with mushrooms suits a dry English cider as does steamed brill with a cider sabayon.

Cider and seafood tips

How to store fresh shellfish

You could use frozen but the ideal is to buy your shellfish fresh. It’s better to eat them the day you buy them. However, you can store fresh shellfish for 24 hours in the salad tray of your fridge. Cover them with a wet tea cloth or seaweed and keep them at 2oC. Use seawater or fresh water with a tablespoon of salt added for every litre; fresh water will kill them. Soak the clams in cold water also with a tablespoon of salt in each litre, to rid them of sand and grit. De-beard the mussels by pulling out any threads emerging from between the shells and scrape off any barnacles. When you’re ready to cook them, wash the mussels and the clams in cold water.

Open or closed? — the golden rule 

The firm rule is to discard mussels or clams that are open when you’re preparing them and remove any that are still closed when they’re cooked.

Find out more about cider and seafood

The Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide is designed to help you make the right sustainable seafood choices.  

Show us yer mussels! Photo by Clinton & Charles Roberts

Mussels and clams with bacon

Serves 4

Preparation: 5-10 minutes to clean shells plus another 5 minutes.

Cooking: 20 minutes.


Mussels x 1.5kg 

Clams x 500g

medium dry cider  x 250ml

Unsalted butter x 20g

Bacon lardons or pancetta x 150g

Leeks x 2

Crème fraiche (or double cream if you prefer) x 75ml

Dijon mustard x 2 teaspoons

Samphire x 125g

Bay leaf

Parsley. A handful. Chopped. Flat leaf.


Melt the butter in a pan. Add the lardons and brown them. Slice the leek lengthways and wash it. Cut it again into pieces about an inch (2.5cm) long. Add the leeks, chopped shallots, bay leaf and half the parsley to the pot. Stir, cover and sweat them over a low heat until the leeks and shallots are soft but not brown, for five to 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the cider, mussels, clams and samphire. Cover and cook for three to five minutes, until the shellfish have opened, giving the pan a shake from time to time.

Meanwhile, combine the cream and Dijon mustard. Take the shellfish out and keep them warm. Remove and throw away any that have not opened. Pour the crème fraîche and mustard into the sauce and give it all a stir. Reduce it by a third.

Return the shellfish to the sauce and give everything a swish. Then serve the shellfish and sauce in bowls, scattered with the remaining parsley. You can accompany this with more of the same cider and some crusty bread.


  1. Clean the shellfish and the leeks. Chop the leeks, shallots and parsley.
  2. Fry the lardons in the butter until they are brown on a low heat.
  3. Add the chopped leeks, shallots, bay leaf and half the parsley. Cover and sweat them until the leeks are soft but not brown (5-10mins). Shake them occasionally.
  4. Turn up the heat. Add the cider, mussels and clams. Stir them up. Cover them and cook them until the shellfish open. (3-5 mins).
  5. Take them out of the pot. Discard any that don’t open by themselves. Keep the rest warm.
  6. Combine the cream and mustard and mix it into the sauce.
  7. Return the shellfish to the pot and stir it.
  8. Serve it in bowls scattered with the remaining parsley.


Baked cod with mushrooms

Atlantic cod. Picture courtesy State of New York Forest, Fish and Game Commission Cod, haddock or pollock can all be used in this simple fish and cider dish. They’re all members of the cod family and – importantly – they’re also on the Marine Stewardship Council ‘Fish to Eat’ list. When you’re buying cod steaks check that the skin is bright and clear. The shoulder end of the fish is best. Cod and haddock are available all year round. The smaller, softer-fleshed pollock is more of a summer fish because it moves into deeper waters in the winter. Leaving the skin on helps the fish, especially haddock, hold together. You leave it behind in the pan. This goes really well with garlic ‘bashed’ potatoes and a dry cider.

Baked cod with mushroom

Serves 4

Cooking time: 20 min at 350oF/180oC/Gas Mark 4


Cod steaks x 4 (allow 175-200g per serving)

Dry cider  x 150ml

Butter x 75g

Small onion x 1 or shallots x 4

Clove of garlic x 1  (3, if making bashed potatoes)

Large carrots x 2, julienned

Button or chestnut mushrooms x 250g

Plain white flour x 2 tablespoons

Chicken or vegetable stock to make up 300ml with fish juices

Lemon juice


New potatoes (optional) x 600g


Put the fish in a buttered baking dish. Pour in the cider and dot the fish with butter and season it. Bake the for 20 minutes uncovered. The fish should flake easily with a fork. Lift it off the skin with fish slice and put the fish on a plate. The pan juices go into a measuring jug so that you can combine them with the stock.

To julienne the carrots, cut them into lengths of about 4cm then slice them thinly and again into thin matchsticks. Alternatively, grate them and then split the gratings with a knife. Sauté the onions and garlic for about five minutes then add the carrots and mushrooms.

Cover them with a piece of greased/buttered baking parchment and a lid and cook them gently until the vegetable are just tender. Then pour them and the juices into a bowl. Use the same pan to make a sauce with melted butter, flour and the combined fish juices and stock. Simmer this to make sure the flour is properly cooked in. Flake the fish and add it, the vegetables and juices to the sauté. Season, add a squeeze of lemon and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Bashed garlic potatoes

If you’re having bashed potatoes with this fish and cider recipe, new potatoes are ideal. Leave small ones whole or cut bigger ones into thumb-sized pieces. Pour boiling water over them and then bring them back to the boil. When they are soft but not falling to pieces stir in a little butter or olive oil, salt and crushed garlic. Bash them with a masher or wooden spoon but stop short of mashing or creaming them.


  1. Heat oven to 350oF/180oC/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Butter baking tin and place the fish steaks in it. Pour in the cider. Dot the fish with about 15g of butter and season it.
  3. Bake it for 20 mins.
  4. While the fish bakes, peel and chop the onions/shallots, carrots, mushrooms, and parsley and peel and crush the garlic.
  5. Then, lift the fish out of the pan leaving the skin behind in the pan, and put it to one side.
  6. Pour the juices into a measuring jug and add enough chicken stock to make 300ml.
  7. Melt the 40g of butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and sauté the onion and garlic for 3-5 minutes.
  8. Add the carrots and mushrooms.
  9. Grease the baking parchment with butter. Put it over the pan, butter-side down, and put the lid on. Cook this gently until the vegetables are just tender. Then put them into a bowl with the juices.
  10. If you are having garlic bashed potatoes, put them on to boil (see above).
  11. Melt the remaining butter in the pan. Stir in the flour and cook it for a minute. Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the fish and chicken stock, stirring to remove any lumps. Return it to gentle heat until it thickens and simmer it for a few minutes.
  12. Flake the fish and add it with the vegetables to the sauce. Season it, add lemon juice to taste and sprinkle it with parsley. (And the potatoes if you’re having them).

Steamed brill with a cider sabayon

Brill is a flat fish, and often thought of as a sweeter and cheaper alternative to turbot, while a sabayon is similar to a hollandaise and easy to make. The dry cider and Tabasco in this recipe provide balance. The skin on a brill is quite tough. Take it off gently after the fish has steamed or suggest that your guests do so for themselves. Test the fish to see if it is nearly ready; it should be opaque and you should be able to lift off a flake gently using a fork.

A note on seasonality: the brill we eat in the UK mainly comes from the North Sea. Although brill is thought to be abundant the Marine Conservation Society advises avoiding small, immature brill (less than 30cm). Their breeding season is spring and summer. They can be caught throughout the year but are best from September to December, or roughly, cider making time. Parsnip mash or steamed broccoli would go well.

Brill. Picture courtesy Jonathan Crouch

Serves 4

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes.

Cooking time: 15 minutes


Brill fillets (200g) x 4

Egg yolks x 3

Dry cider 150ml


Lemon juice

Salt and pepper


  1. Season the fillets and steam them for about 15 minutes. This timing will vary.
  2. Test the fish to see if it is nearly ready. Use a fork to see if opaque and you can lift off a flake.
  3. Take the fish off the heat.
  4. Heat a saucepan of water nearly to the boil.
  5. Turn the heat down to keep the temperature of the water steady.
  6. Whisk the eggs and the cider in a bowl.
  7. Place the bowl over the hot water and keep whisking, getting air in by lifting the whisk (without making it spray). This will make the sabayon rise. When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon:
  8. Add tobacco and lemon juice to the sabayon and spoon it over the fish.
  9. And serve it.