WITH KATE MCGHIE
Oh, we’ve all had those texts from friends who’ll drop in “around dinnertime”. And what time do you expect to be home? Around dinnertime, too?
Do you text back with a suggestion to meet at a restaurant? Well, of course you can, but wouldn’t it be nice to kick back at home with your guests after a busy day. Cheaper, too.
So dash in to your local fishmonger and scoop up some sleek black and slateblue bivalves and, with a tin of chickpeas and a tube of harissa paste, you have a worthy meal in less than 30 minutes. Mussels are easy and quick to prepare. You’ll need only a few minutes gently tugging the wisps of beard from each mussel, a quick rinse under running water and they’re ready for the pot. A glug of olive oil, finely chopped vegies added to soften, tiny tomatoes dropped in and mussels dumped in with remaining ingredients — in less than 10 minutes those steaming mussels are ready.
Serve with a big basket of chunks of crusty sourdough bread to mop up every trace of intensely flavoured juice.
If your pantry is bare of chickpeas and you have cannellini beans, use them instead.
No harissa but there’s pesto? Simply switch for a dish with delicate herby Italian flavours.
A combination of both harissa and pesto will give the perfect balance of hot, cool, spicy and soothing. The lemon juice at the end balances all the flavours.
To make sure the mussels are squeaky fresh, tap the shell on a hard surface and if it closes, start cooking. Discard any that are cracked or chipped. Don’t be worried if some of the mussels stubbornly refuse to fully open, they are perfectly fine to eat and can be encouraged by gentle prising with a knife.