Mussels are probably my favourite seafood. Cheap, easy to get hold of and not in the least bit faffy to cook, they fulfil my desire for the pleasure of the taste without any of the pain. I have watched crabs and lobsters going into the pot still moving and coming out not so mobile and, although I love eating them, I just can’t cook them. Somehow, even though I know that mussels are still alive, the fact that they don’t have eyes makes it a tad easier. Yes, yes, hypocritical I know. Anyway, enough of the ethics; if I really cared about such things I would be a card-carrying vegetarian. And that I am not. This is a really, truly amazingly easy recipe and, although I was inspired by this, the final version was very much my own. I really felt like I was cooking something that I had developed myself and the two happy testers, who both normally hate brown crabmeat, loved it in this. I’d suggest if you can’t get hold of it, or don’t want to use it, that you add a pinch of saffron to the pan instead with the sherry. I also think a bit of fresh red chilli chopped up or a tad more garlic wouldn’t go amiss. This will take you 30 minutes, tops, even with the cleaning and it is absolutely bloody gorgeous.
For two main course portions or three largish starter portions
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
garlic cloves, 3
olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons
sea salt and black pepper
fresh live mussels, about 900g (the bags in the supermarkets are usually about that weight)
cooked brown crabmeat, 50g
dry sherry (fino or manzanilla), 200ml
smoked streaky bacon, about 50g (a couple of rashers or so)
sourdough bread, a couple of slices per person
fresh flat-leaf parsley, a handful
1. Clean the mussels by putting them in a sink or bowl filled with cold water and scrubbing the surface of the shells (barnacles and grit don’t taste nice). Pull any ‘beards’ (small bits of seaweed, usually clamped tight in the shell) out and off too. Chuck away any broken ones or ones that don’t close when you tap them (dead ones are no friend to your stomach).
2. Peel the garlic cloves and chop two of them, snip the bacon up into small pieces and wash and chop the parsley.
3. Put a tablespoon of the olive oil into a large lidded frying pan and fry the garlic and bacon for a couple of minutes until the garlic is just colouring.
4. Tip in the mussels, sherry and crabmeat, season, cover with the lid and leave to steam for a couple of minutes.
5. Once the mussels have been steaming for a few minutes, take the lid off the frying pan and shake the pan a little to make sure that all the mussels have taken the flavours of the broth. Let the liquid reduce a little.
6. Whilst the mussels are cooking, toast the sourdough bread and then rub the surface of the toasts with the remaining garlic clove. Finally, dribble some olive oil over the bread too.
7. Tip the mussels into large bowls, pouring the juice over the top of them, garnish with some flat-leaf parsley and serve with the toasts.