Stuffed mus­sels

Emiko Davies delves into heir­loom fam­ily recipes from the port city of Taranto, in Italy’s south­ern heel of Puglia, in her new book Tortellini at Mid­night.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Food - Recipes and words EMIKO DAVIES Pho­tog­ra­phy LAU­REN BAMFORD & EMIKO DAVIES

“This is one of those dishes that re­quires love and time to pre­pare – you may want to en­list the help of oth­ers with the stuff­ing part, dis­trib­ute glasses of wine and en­joy a good chat while you tie each mus­sel shell,” says Davies. “Like polpette and many other dishes of Puglia’s cucina povera tra­di­tion, the work that goes into this beau­ti­ful meal can cover both a first and sec­ond course – the rich tomato sauce, in­fused with the sea flavour of the mus­sels, is used to dress pasta for the first course, while the mus­sels are eaten separately, as the main course.” Pic­tured p117.

1 kg mus­sels, scrubbed and beards re­moved

125 ml dry white wine

60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil

2 gar­lic cloves

400 gm canned peeled or chopped toma­toes

100 gm day-old or stale coun­try bread, crusts re­moved and coarsely chopped

125 ml (½ cup) milk

200 gm (1½ cups) fresh bread­crumbs 100 gm pecorino or parme­san, grated

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup (loosely packed)

flat-leaf pars­ley, chopped

1 Dis­card any mus­sels that are cracked or open and won’t close when gen­tly tapped. To open the mus­sels, heat them in a wide pan with the wine over a high heat. Cover, and shake the pan oc­ca­sion­ally to help the mus­sels move around (the ones on the bot­tom will find it harder to open fully than the ones on top). Af­ter about 1-2 min­utes, check them and, with a pair of tongs, re­move the mus­sels, one by one, as they open and trans­fer them to a large bowl. Con­tinue un­til all the mus­sels have opened (any that are still tightly shut can be dis­carded). Strain the mus­sel liq­uid left in the pan – either use a very fine-mesh sieve or a reg­u­lar sieve lined with a paper towel and set over a bowl. Re­frig­er­ate un­til ready to use.

2 In the same large pan, gen­tly in­fuse the oil with one of the gar­lic cloves (smashed with the side of a large knife) over a low heat. In­fuse gen­tly for about 5 min­utes, or un­til fra­grant and soft­ened. Add the toma­toes and about 125ml wa­ter, along with roughly half of the re­served mus­sel liq­uid. In­crease the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Sim­mer gen­tly for 10 min­utes, then set aside. Season to taste. 3 For the stuff­ing, soak the stale bread in the milk and finely chop the other gar­lic clove. Com­bine the gar­lic with the fresh bread­crumbs, pecorino, egg and pars­ley. Pour the rest of the mus­sel liq­uid over the top and season with pep­per. Squeeze any ex­cess liq­uid from the milk-soaked bread and crum­ble it in. The stuff­ing should come to­gether and stay to­gether when you squeeze a spoon­ful of it in your hand; if it’s too crumbly, you can add a bit of the milk that the bread was soak­ing in. 4 Take a spoon­ful of the fill­ing, squeeze it in your hand to make it com­pact, then fill an opened mus­sel shell and wrap a short piece of kitchen string around it tightly to keep it closed. Re­peat with the rest of the mus­sels.

5 Place the stuffed mus­sels in the pot of tomato sauce and top up with some ex­tra wa­ter to en­sure the mus­sels are sub­merged. Cover, and bring to a gen­tle sim­mer over medium heat. Try not to stir the pot too much; if the mus­sels haven’t been tied tightly enough, you risk them open­ing. Sim­mer for 15 min­utes.

6 Serve the mus­sels with a sharp knife to cut the strings (al­ter­na­tively, cut them all off be­fore serv­ing) and pro­vide fin­ger bowls to clean fin­gers.

This ex­tract from Tortellini at Mid­night and Other Heir­loom Fam­ily Recipes from Tarantoto Turin to Tus­cany by Emiko Davies with pho­tog­ra­phy by Lau­ren Bamford and Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant Books, hbk, $52) has been re­pro­duced with mi­nor GT style changes.

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