NIGEL SLATER

The Observer Magazine - - NEWS - Nigel Slater @NigelSlater Email Nigel at nigel.slater@ob­server.co.uk or visit the­guardian.com/profile/nigelslater for all his recipes in one place Pho­tographs JONATHAN LOVEKIN

That lit­tle bit of ex­tra work in­volved in pre­par­ing seafood is well worth the ef­fort – es­pe­cially with these clas­sics As much as I look for­ward to the prospect of a bowl of steamed mus­sels, teas­ing the seafood from their pre­car­i­ously piled shells, I also like the idea of a recipe where the work has been done for me.

A hand­ful of shelled mus­sels, each as plump and juicy as a dumpling, will add much deep, piscine flavour to a risotto, a clear broth or a veg­etable stew. Shelling mus­sels sounds like a step too far. In re­al­ity, the task is sim­ple, es­pe­cially when you get into the rhythm of things, tug­ging out each scorch­ing-hot par­cel of seafood from its home. (Use an empty pair of con­joined shells as pin­cers if you like.) It is one of those cu­ri­ous kitchen jobs I start with trep­i­da­tion and fin­ish rather wish­ing that I hadn’t come to the end.

That lit­tle pile of hot mus­sels and their es­caped juices will add a sur­pris­ingly deep flavour to a few toma­toes that have been diced finely and sim­mered with some chopped thyme and maybe a clove of gar­lic. I’m not sure they need onion or olive oil: just toma­toes, thyme and mus­sels. I did just that this week, a cel­e­bra­tion of seafood, herbs and golden toma­toes. We ate it with rice, but some fat, floury pota­toes would be good, too. You can use any carb, re­ally – some­thing with which to sponge up the juices from our plates.

I also bought a cou­ple of squid. That’s twice this month, but what is a hun­gry shop­per to do when a glis­ten­ing cephalo­pod waves a come-hither ten­ta­cle at them from the fish­mon­ger’s ice-strewn counter? I took them home, cut them into rings and grilled them un­til tinged with black and gold. We scat­tered them with or­ange zest, an­chovy and fried bread­crumbs, then dipped them into deep bowls of golden gar­lic may­on­naise.

MUS­SELS, TOMA­TOES AND THYME

Serves 2 mus­sels 600g toma­toes 500g gar­lic 1 large clove thyme leaves 2 tbsp sherry vine­gar 4 tsp

Direc­tions

Scrub the mus­sels un­der cold run­ning wa­ter and tug away their beards. Tap each shell firmly on the side of the sink: the two shells should close im­me­di­ately. Dis­card any that are cracked, chipped or wil­fully refuse to close – they are past their best.

Put a large, deep saucepan over a mod­er­ately high heat, tip in the mus­sels, a splash of wa­ter or white wine if there is some open, and cover tightly with a lid. Let the mus­sels steam for 2 or 3 min­utes, un­til their shells are open wide and there is

The hot mus­sels will add a deep flavour to the toma­toes

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