Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I've got sloppier and sloppier about cleaning the wild mussels we buy here. Unlike the cultivated kind, these big roguish bivalves flaunt their marine origins. Cluster of barnacles like miniature pale grey volcanos, dark green hair-like seaweed, a strange white graffiti-like scribble like a fossilized worm...they ain't pretty but they're real.

At one time, I would spend hours scraping each one to smooth perfection. Not any more. Now it's off with anything large and non-clinging, a swift beard removal, a check that they're tightly closed. Any mussel that dares to gape is set aside on the edge of the sink and given a chance to shut up. 

I can't think of an easier dish to cook. You could probably just throw them into a dry pot, clamp on the lid and crank up the heat. I've never tried it. Usually, I simmer a couple of glugs of white wine or beer with chopped onion and garlic. This time I began with a sheen of olive oil. Not much. The onion and garlic went in and about 10 cm of roughly diced hot chorizo. All cooked for about five minutes. Then in with the mussels. Lid on. Seven minutes about or until they all opened. I chopped some chives from the garden over the top and we had them with bread for dipping and a green salad to follow.

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