A Rare Sunny April Day in the Garden
Well, it´s been a while since I posted anything at all, let alone a recipe. It´s been a hectic 5 or 6 weeks with 3 lots of visitors, which was wonderful. Also, a fall down the patio steps (am still feeling rather delicate in the nether regions) and a broken camera which meant that I couldn´t take any pictures. All very frustrating but the derrière is now on the mend and we´ve bought a new camera. Hurrah!
Fish Man came by this morning, and I decided to see what he had tucked in the back of his little van. I´d been fancying a warming soup as we´ve had the worst (and wettest) Easter here in Andalucía for 80 years, and the rain and storms are set to last for a few days more. Combine this with the most dreadful hay fever and I feel like I have a bad dose of flu with a serious hangover on top. I don´t actually have a hangover, although it might have been fun putting in the work to achieve it, just the pain! Fortunately Fish Man had some beautiful mussels, not of the bicep kind you understand, so I bought a kilo.
I was torn between doing them in a creamy, oniony, white wine base or a garlicky, tomatoey one. The tomato won – I felt that my nose needed a good assault of powerful smells! This is a very easy and quick to cook dish that looks as though you spent hours in the kitchen creating something “gourmet”.
The serving I made would feed two as a main course or four as a starter.
Ingredients used were:
- A kilo of mussels
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
- Half a medium onion finely chopped
- About a cup or half a tin of chopped peeled tomatoes
- Olive oil for frying
- Small glass of white wine
- About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Water (optional)
Rinse the Mussels Several Times
Start by cleaning the mussels. Not as tricky as it may seem. I usually rinse them three or four times in cold running water. Throw away any that are cracked or open. You then need to remove the “beard” which is the small strand of seaweed looking stuff which usually just pokes out of the straighter side of the mussel. Hold the mussel in one hand with the point facing down and the curved part into the palm of your hand. Grab the seaweedy strand with your thumb and forefinger of the other hand and pull it upwards – it will slide out and you´re done!
Cleaned and De-Barnacled!
If your mussels have any barnacles attached, you can pop these off with the blade of a flat (butter) knife. Finally a quick scrub (I use a metallic pan scrubber for this) and a final rinse and they´re done.
Put the mussels to one side and start on the base. In a deep saucepan which has a lid, heat some olive oil (enough to sweat the onion and garlic). On a low heat, sweat them off for a few minutes until soft and transparent. I used a red onion today as it was what I had, but it´s just as good, if not better, with a stronger tasting white onion.
Gently sweat the onion and garlic
Now add your tomato (you can also add a teaspoon of tomato puree if your tomatoes are a bit pale or lacking in flavour). Keep on a low heat and put the lid on and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, add your wine and seasoning and bring to a bubble then reduce to a simmer and leave to cook gently for 5 minutes.
Make the tomato base for the soup
The base is now ready and you can stop here until you´re ready to eat – the final stages will only take you about another 5 minutes, so this is a good “prepare ahead when you´ve got guests” dish.
Finally...add the mussels and parsley
When you´re ready to eat, warm the tomato sauce, add the mussels and the chopped parsley and put the lid on. I usually do this on a medium heat and after about 2 minutes check and see how the mussels are doing. You may need to put the lid on and give the pan a shake to move the mussels around a little.
Once they´re all open they´re ready to eat. The mussels will release their juices so see how much you have in the pot. If you feel you´d like a little more liquid, add a glass of water (or fish stock or wine), if not, they´re fine as they are. I don´t usually add more liquid, these measurements give two large bowls of mussels and enough stock for two good bowls of soup.
Enjoy - but don´t forget the wine!
You can serve with a salad and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices. I recommend serving with a spoon and fork. The fork is for getting those mussels out of their shells for those guests who don´t want to use an empty shell to do this, and the spoon is for the soup part. They´re also nice, particularly if you serve them with less liquid, with crispy chips and garlicky mayonnaise. Don´t forget to put an empty bowl on the table to chuck the shells into and a bottle of chilled white, rosé or red wine. Yes, I do mean chilled red, believe me, it works! It´s one of those dishes that works with any wine. A bit like me really…