Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Food -

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.

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