It has got to that point in Winter where I am officially sick of soups and I want it it be Spring already. Maybe it was that year in Los Angeles where 'weather' is more of an abstract concept than something that actually happens that has made me much less tolerant of weather where you can't choose to eat outside or barbecue if you wish. Anyway, in something that is delicious, warming and comforting for all the horrible weather we've been having (and yes, I eat all of this with my hands) today I have a recipe for Roasted Mussels with Cherry Tomatoes and Chorizo. Because yes, you can roast mussels. Who knew? This discovery blew my mind at first.
An important lesson I have learnt over the past few months or so is it pays to really get to know your fishmonger. You'll always know what is good or fresh that day and pick up recipe ideas. The other week mine was unloading a crate of live lobsters, and he took the time to teach me how to tell the difference between a male and a female. It is all about the splaying of the tail, it transpires. So, when your fishmonger warns you he is selling you wild mussels rather than the rope grown you usually buy and they'll need some scrubbing, you ought to take him seriously. Two days running scrubbing these beauties I learnt that cold water and barnacles are not kind to your hands. Barnacles are also the best way to ruin a brand new kitchen sponge.
I do plan to do a post on how to clean and de-beard mussels at some point with a step by step, but for now Waitrose has a great online guide. Another great thing about going to a proper fishmonger. They'll sort through the mussels as they are weighing them out for you, so you rarely get bad ones. I have learnt the hard way that when the guides tell you to soak your mussels twice to remove grit, they really mean it. I like to use the middle of my set of three mixing bowls that the guys over at Red Candy were kind enough to send me last year. As I don't have much space in my London flat the fact they nest, are shaped like jugs and have jug measurements inside so that I can multitask with them makes them essential to my kitchen.
This is a simple recipe, but a recipe in three parts. While you are soaking the mussels croutons need to be made out of day old or almost stale bread under the grill. I keep infused extra virgin olive oils in my kitchen, and I've found rosemary is perfect for this if you are into that sort of thing. Obviously preparing the mussels are another element, and the third is just arranging your mussels, tomatoes and chorizo on a baking tray and allowing the mussels to open up in a very, very hot oven. You need to make sure you use a deep tray for this; the mussels give off the most amazing elixir. So amazing, it has made me excited to try Nigel Slaters 'A Clear, Hot Mussel Soup' from The Kitchen Diaries Volume I.
I think I have mentioned this before on Instagram, but coming from a home where we grow all our herbs in pots, when I first arrived in Los Angeles where herbs at the grocery store came in big bunches, and I started shopping at the farmers market, it took me a while to figure out how to stop big bunches wilting in my fridge within a day or two. It turns out that the solution is a big glass or jar of water. I only have a tiny fridge in London, so as well as a glass with a big bunch of coriander in my fridge door you'll also usually find a glass of parsley on my desk, next to the flower vase. There is a bunch of dill in there too, at the moment.
For my Roasted Mussels with Cherry Tomatoes & Chorizo recipe head over to Great British Chefs. It is a website I've been reading and cooking from for a while now, so I am absolutely honoured to now count myself among its bloggers. Fans of The Taste, Felicity Spector's weekly blogs about the show have also had me cracking up over there.
Are you still into your Winter soups and stews, or are you also starting to hanker after something a bit more bright and colourful? And do you also know any other awesome ways with mussels? As well as roasting and steaming, I know baking halves with crumbs and stuffing. I'd love to hear about some of your recipes!