A full flavoured and remarkably economical recipe from The Borough Market Cookbook
British mussels are plump and in season from late August through autumn. They’re easy and quick to cook, so full of flavour and remarkably economical to buy, and as such should be a lunch or starter in everyone’s armoury. Give your diners a spoon to slurp up the stock, and hunks of fresh bread to mop up any remaining juices.
Often, cooks use white wine, cider and/or cream for dishes like this. This version takes a quick trip to Spain, via a glass of dry yet caramel-tinted oloroso sherry, and a hit of smoked paprika; and then back to Britain thanks to some lightly smoked venison chorizo from Cannon & Cannon. Other venison salamis, for example from Alpine Deli, or a more classic pork chorizo, would work too.
2 tbsp light olive oil
2 banana shallots, very thinly sliced
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (pimentón de la Vera)
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
10 sprigs of parsley, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
1 small venison chorizo (80–100g), diced
200ml oloroso sherry fresh bread, to serve
Purge (clean) the mussels by leaving them to soak in cold water for 30 mins, changing the water 3-4 times. Over this time you’ll see plenty of grit and dirt emerge from the molluscs. Pull off any straggly beards from the mussels and sort through the mix for shells that are open or broken—if open mussels do not close up when tapped against a hard surface, discard them.
Place a large saucepan over a high heat (you might even split the mussels between two saucepans). Add the oil, the shallots and a pinch of flaky sea salt and sauté for 1-2 mins, without colouring. Add the paprika, garlic and parsley stalks and soften for 1 min, then tip in the mussels and diced venison chorizo. Shake the pan for 30 secs, move the mussels to one side of the pan and pour in the sherry, letting it bubble, then place a lid on and cook for about 4 mins, until the majority of the mussels have fully opened and they look plump and inviting. The remainder should work their way open in the residual heat as you finish the dish (which is better than waiting for the last shell to pop and overcooking the rest as a result).
hrow in the parsley leaves then ladle the mussels into bowls, ensuring everyone has a fair share of the cooking liquor. You will need extra bowls on the table for empty shells, plus a few napkins to mop messy hands. Serve with hunks of fresh bread.
Recipe: Ed Smith from The Borough Market Cookbook (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)
Image: Issy Croker