Mussels are just that thing, aren’t they?
One of those things that look like a hell of a lot more posh than they actually are. Yet people are still infinitely frightened of them.
Those that like cooking think they’re hard to cook and those that hate themselves hate the way they taste.
How can you hate the way a mussel tastes? It tastes like the smell of the sea. And if you hate the sea you hate life. Why would you hate life?
When I meet someone who says they like mussels, I just know there’s a kinship there. Likeminded folk. The kind of folk I want to hunker down with and dunk big chunks of bread into garlicky, buttery wine and then slap strands of pasta on our chins in the quest for a plump mussel.
The kind of evening you get with a big, steaming bowl of mussels is the kind of evening I long for. The snoozy nights that seem to last forever. Let’s face it you’re only ever going to eat mussels in front of someone you’re comfortable with, and you cradle the bowls in your hands while you toss back wine and the night just goes on and on.
Let’s not get too caught in the romance cos one of the first steps of cooking mussels is taking off their beards, which cracks me up no end. But that’s just part of the fun, let’s be honest.
I go for about 1kg of mussels. That will EASILY feed 4 people but 2 really greedy people if needs be. And I am greedy. So let’s go there.
Shove all of your mussels into a big bowl and cover them in water. This is cleaning your mussels and you want to soak them for about an hour, changing the water half way through.
Now de-beard them. I love this bit. You’re basically just pulling out the little bit of the tufft that comes out of it. It’ll come out easy with your fingers. Use this time to also throw away any mussels that are even slightly open. You don’t want to eat them. Not at all. It means the mussel is all sorts of dead.
Put your de-bearded and CLOSED mussels to one side. Let’s make the rest.
Put a pan of linguine or spaghetti on to boil in some salted water. This will all come together by the time the pasta is done, I swear.
In another big pan, drop in a tablespoon of butter, grate in a clove of garlic and add a tiny drizzle of olive oil.
Heat this up and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is sizzling but not burning. Now throw in two cups of white vermouth (or any white wine) and bring it to a bubble, which won’t take long at all.
Now throw in the mussels and clamp on a lid, giving it a gentle rattle about. Leave the lid clamped on and turn the heat down to medium, cooking for about 3 – 4 minutes.
In this time, finely chop up some parsley and butter some bread. This recipe demands it.
Drain your pasta and immediately fling it into the pan of mussels and shake everything about.
Now all you do is tip the pasta into some bowls, scatter over another leafy snow throw of parsley and you get to chowing down.
If you don’t grin with every mouthful of this, you’ve done it wrong.