As the weather simply fails to concede this year to any less-than-extraordinary predictions, in the midst of Autumn we find ourselves sweltering in a heat worthy of the Mediterranean. A joy to be obliged to laze in the garden in a mere wisp of clothing with an Hispanic it’s too hot to do anything but… attitude. An appropriately lengthy and late lunch was necessitated, and as, in late September we are in the first throes of the new Mussel season, a bowl of Mussels was timely.
A brief step to the coast, thronged with sheds-cum-fishmongers baring their latest wares. Mussels splitting plastic bags for a couple of pounds per kilo of the freshest… indeed these are such common fodder they are to be found stacked on tables beside an honesty box.
And to have with? Some chick-peas cooked that morning with Hummus pretensions, a wealth of bursting ripe tomatoes awaiting picking, onions just plaited, Chorizo lazing in the fruitbowl – a stew… and of that sourdough I’ll back something lighter and whiter than the usual fare.
Tomato, Chorizo and Chick-Pea Mussel Stew with an almost-white Sourdough
Mussels 1kg; 1 large Onion or several Shallots roughly chopped; 3 cloves Garlic, crushed; chunk of Marrow, peeled and cut small; 5 Tomatoes, peeled using hot water, then chopped; 1tsp Paprika; Chilli, chopped; handful of pre-cooked (or tin) Chick Peas; Olives; Capers; Bay Leaf; White Wine; Celery/Celeriac tops; Parsley.
Heat Olive Oil in pan. Add Onion, Garlic, Chorizo, Marrow. After a few minutes add Tomatoes, Paprika, Chilli. Then add Chick Peas, Capers (or Nasturtium Capers); a few Olives; a dash of Water or Tomato Juice. Cook gently for half an hour, adding liquid if necessary. Meanwhile, wash, scrub, beard the Mussels. Just before eating heat a large pan with ½ inch of White wine, another Onion, Celery and Parsley. When hot add Mussels, stirring or lidding and shaking. When opened toss Mussels and a bit of their juice into the tomato stew. Sharpen with a squeeze of Lemon. Serve steaming hot with bread, under the shade of an Autumnal tree…
For the bread, I took a Wheat and Rye Sourdough, just risen and ready-to-bake, instead kneaded it up with the same again of Strong White Flour, a tiny sprinkle of dried Yeast. Rose it in a warm place for a couple of hours, baked hot, ate warm.
Fresh Mussels are simply delicious, and don’t really necessitate anything fancy. The method I used to cook the Mussels themselves, above, is that of a simple, and sensational, Moules Marinieres. Add a slurp of cream on serving hot.
Bloody Mary Mussels à la Jamie Oliver
I am barely acquainted with Jamie Oliver’s recipes, but when I came across his Bloody Mary Mussels in a magazine last year, was sorely tempted. They were a cinch and a success. While I'm on Mussels, I'll share that recipe too:
Ingredients: 300ml Passata; 1 tbsp Worcestchire sauce; 3 heaped tsp grated Horseradish; 1 Chilli, sliced ; ½ head of Celery; 4 cloves of Garlic; splash of Port; good splash of Vodka; 1 Lemon; 2 kg cleaned Mussles; Parsley.
Pour Passata into a jug with Worcestershire Sauce; Horseradish; Chilli; 2 or 3 Celery stalks, sliced; crushed Garlic; Port and Vodka. Stir well. Squeeze in juice of Lemon and season.
Tip Mussels into hot pan, pour in Bloody Mary mixture. Put lid on, shake pan and leave Mussels to steam open. Turn heat up high. Shake again. Once all open, remove with slotted spoon. Reduce and thicken sauce. Pour over Mussels, drizzle with Olive Oil and scatter with chopped Parsley.