Oh. My. God. It’s freezing. Going outside is to be avoided at all costs. So instead of venturing out to spend money I don’t have, I’ve retreated indoors for some weather-denial food.
On the bright side, cold times of the year like this are when mussels are fantastic – and they’re always a bit of a treat anyway. OK, so it might not be like buying yourself a tab of beluga caviar and having it served to you by Victoria’s Secret Angels while your mimosa is chilled with the frozen tears of a polar bear, but there’s something indulgent about a bumper serving of shellfish. Perhaps its because of the elbow grease that goes into getting them done in the first place, or the feeling that once the bloody critters have got the sand out of them, that the buckets of delicious juices you get out of them effortlessly make a dingy corner of SouthEast London feel like…well, at least Southend if not the South of France.
Mussels are my shellfish weapon of choice – cheap, tasty and at their best at these chilly times of the year. This is one of my favourite ways to make a kilo, lovingly lugged back from East Street market, go a long away around a Saturday lunch table, accompanied by a few glasses of white.
Minus 5? PAH.
While you get beardy, here’s a selection of songs to make you pretend it’s summertime (and that you sell clothespegs and wonder around playing a balalaika).
How to clean mussels
Dump the little creatures into a big tub of cold, clean water. Let them sit around for 20 minutes to spit out their sand and grit before changing the water.
Ditch any mussels that are open or broken-shelled
Use a firm brush to go over each mussel and get rid of any dirt and barnacles – drop the clean ones into a new bowl of water
Some mussels have furry beards hanging out of them. Get rid by gripping the beard tight and pulling it in a swift tug towards the hinge end of the mussel; this should remove the beard without killing the creature inside.
Summery mussel linguine
Serves 2 hungry people
1 kilo of mussels
Splash of white wine
1 x decent size onion, very finely chopped
1 x garlic clove, finely chopped
1 x pinch dried chili flakes
1 x good-quality tinned tomatoes (don’t have the mussels die in vain – buy the good stuff)
Handful of fresh parsley (you’ll notice that I totally forgot to buy any for the pics)
Quality linguine (again, please not the quick-cook stuff)
1. Steam the mussels in a lid-on pan with a splash of white wine
2. After a couple of minutes, open them up and remove the mussels from their shells, leaving two unshelled handfuls behind
3. Fry the onion gently in a lug of olive oil until seriously soft; add in the garlic and chili and continue on a moderate heat until cooked
4. Chuck in the tin of tomatoes and the cooking liquor from the mussels and reduce until a sauce-y consistency
5. Meanwhile, have the linguine cooking away
6. Add the mussels to the sauce when the pasta’s nearly ready, just to heat through; season
7. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce; plate up and add the chopped parsley and unshelled mussels for prettiness