In the spirit of food from the Mediterranean, I amended the sauce from the previous recipe I posted to include mussels. Whichever you prefer is up to you. I really love mussels, and in as much as a lot of people use it in Paella, I am not fond of it cooked with rice, because you lose most of the flavour. If I want to impress guests with seafood paella, of course mussels will be introduced but I’ve come to prefer it in a soup. The act of scooping out the meat and eating it with soup is just wonderful and very comforting too.
If you are cooking with mussels, you have to be very wary of food poisoning. When you purchase fresh mussels, they are usually closed, and the cooking process opens them up. Cooking with Mussels has two basic rules. Please adhere strictly. Seafood induced food poisoning is not pretty.
- Before you cook, examine the mussels. Any one that has already opened or cracked, even partially is bad, throw away. Fresh mussels will open up completely under heat.
- Bad mussels don’t open or they open up partially. If you have to apply pressure to open a mussel, it is already bad, please throw away
If you’ve never cooked with mussels at home, this is a great way to start, and hopefully you’ll use it more often in seafood dishes. As it is cooked fresh, it leaches its flavour into anything you cook with, which is why it is great in soup. The flavour is very rich and distinct.
I wrote about going to Billingsgate market to shop for fish. At the market, mussels are sold in this humongous bag. A lot of people split a bag with one or two people, just as you would back home by splitting a basket of tomatoes or a carton of yam. My shopping partner wasn’t so keen on mussels, so I came back home with this huge bag of fresh mussels. I remember staring at it for so long, and saying to myself, Dunni you have overdone it this time. You can’t freeze live mussels. So I brought out my biggest pot, boiled the whole lot and portioned in freezer bags. I have enough mussels to last me a loooooong time.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, just boil everything. Your soups, stews or rice wont miss out on the flavour because you will be left with a really delicious stock which you can cook with anything. Any recipe that calls for fish stock, rather than use something out of a packet or a can, you have a winner in Mussel stock. Here is how I seasoned my 5kg worth of mussels
1 bottle of white wine – I used my favourite Chardonnay. Cooking any seafood in white wine brings out the flavour
3 Red Onions
4 cloves of Garlic
3 cups of water
Cayenne Pepper – dry pepper
Finely chop the onions and the garlic and add it to the rest of the ingredients in a pot. Bring it to a boil and add the mussels. Let this cook until you see the mussels open. Stir regularly so that the top ones can also get some heat. This should take 15 – 20minutes, and you are done. remember, throw away any mussels that don’t open completely
So, back to my Mussels soup – the ingredients are the same as my last post.
1 pound of mussels – about a big handful
½ cup of halved cherry tomatoes
1/3rd cup of halved pitted green olives – if you can’t find olives, you can use mushrooms, thickly sliced green bell pepper or chopped celery stick
1 clove of garlic
2 Ata Rodo (scotch bonnet or habanero pepper)
1/2 a Lemon
1 small red onion
1/2 cup of white wine + 1/2 cup of water or fish stock/mussel stock (if this already contains white wine, 1/4 cup of white wine)
½ tsp curry powder/ fish seasoning
½ tsp thyme
Note, if you already have mussel stock you will not need the last two.
- Halve your cherry tomatoes and green olives. Follow the measurements stated and set aside
- Chop the Ata Rodo, onion and garlic. Heat a deep saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté for 2 minutes until the onions and the garlic soften
- Turn down the heat, and add the tomatoes and the olives followed by lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes, be careful it doesn’t dry up
- Add water or fish stock, curry, thyme, salt, seasoning cube and chopped parsley, turn up the heat and bring it to a boil
- Add the mussels and stir properly to spread it out evenly
- Let this cook for 5 minutes until the mussels open up in all their full glory.
- When this happens, with a table spoon, scoop some of the soup into the open mussels, and let it cook for another 3 minutes, taste for seasoning and re-season if necessary.
Now you may think oh dear, all my liquid is gone. Don’t worry, the mussels have just crowded the saucepan. When you are serving you will see that you still have more soup. If you are not satisfied, turn down the heat, add more water or stock.
So, slice some baguette or even Agege bread to mop up the soup and dig in.
Now, where is that Afang Soup recipe of mine? I promised you my readers Afang soup and I must deliver.