Mussels under fire
The availability of cultivated mussels certainly take a lot of the work out of putting this bivalve on the menu. Shells are clean and there is usually only a small, easily removed wisp of beard to deal with. A quick tug in an upward direction soon deals with that.
If you are not using them immediately, store the mussels in the fridge, covered with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
As a rule, I allow a kilogram of mussels for every two people – depending on likely appetites. This is for a main course. Halve that for an entree-size offering.
A recipe from my local fishmonger in Melbourne. Steam mussels for about 8 minutes in a large wide pan or wok then place in cold water to stop cooking. Open the mussels, discarding the top shell, and place on an oven tray in a single layer. Mix together a couple of tablespoons each of tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce with 100g melted butter. Top mussels with crispy pieces of bacon, a little grated cheese and a teaspoon of the above sauce and place under a 200C grill until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Make this in a large deep pan or a wok with a lid. If you have a wok burner on your barbecue, go for it.The dish needs little, if any salt, thanks to the brine in the shells and the anchovies. 2kg fresh farmed mussels 1 Tbsp light olive oil 2 onions, sliced 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1⁄ red pepper diced or sliced
2 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced 1 tsp chilli paste (you’ll find this in Asian food stores) 1⁄ cup dry white wine
2 Several anchovies (preserved in salt) Chopped basil for serving Rinse the mussels and remove any wisps of beard. Drain in a sieve or colander. Heat the oil and add the onions and garlic, turning back the heat so the garlic doesn’t burn. When the onion is soft but not coloured, add the red pepper and the tomatoes and chilli paste and turn the heat up a little and cook until the tomatoes meld into a sauce. Add the wine and anchovies and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the mussels and combine with the sauce. Cover and turn up the heat and simmer until the mussel shells open. Garnish with the chopped parsley (or herbs of your own choosing) and serve in bowls with some of the sauce. Serves 4.