Whenever I saw Mussels on a menu I would always order them. But I had a huge block around preparing them at home. The idea of cleaning and de-bearding them seemed intimidating, not to mention knowing how to avoid under- or overcooking them. That was until a friend let me spend some time in her kitchen and I saw how amazingly easy they are to prepare and cook - almost foolproof!
Mussels are nutrition powerhouses. They are an excellent source of Vitamin B12, as well as iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc. Most importantly, they are a rich source of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Each 100g serve of mussels contains between 500 and 1000mg. Omega 3's are essential for brain health and the research is increasingly recognising that the best way to get them is through the food we eat.
There are different varieties of mussels around depending on where in the world you live. Here in Australia we have access to the live farmed blue and black mussels. The brands I usually get are Kinawooka or Boston Bay*, from South Australia. Because mussels obtain their food by filtering seawater, and don't require commercial feeding, their farming has a very low environmental impact.
If you live in New Zealand you have access to the DIVINE Green Shell mussels. We can get them here in Australia too, but they have been partly cooked before being exported to Australia and they just don't turn out as nicely as the fresh Australian ones.
We used to be advised to discard any mussels that did not open once cooked as they are likely to be "off". That recommendation has been debunked. You can read more about that HERE.
The Chilli and Tomato Sauce is part sauce, part soup. It flavours the mussels beautifully and is absolutely delicious soaked up with a slice of crusty sourdough.
Blue Mussels, washed and de-bearded. If you are a newbie, check out THIS VIDEO or see below to learn how to de-beard mussels ready for cooking (don't be scared, it's super easy!)
Chilli and Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 punnets cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
400-500ml tomato passata OR 2 cans chopped tomatoes (how much you use depends on how much sauce/soup you want to serve with your mussels).
1-2 red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced. How much (or how little) you use, and the variety, is up to you. I prefer to use the larger, milder red chillies.
1 generous handful of finely chopped parsley and/or basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place olive oil in a large pan with onion, garlic and sliced cherry tomatoes.
Saute for 15 minutes, until onion is translucent.
Add in passata or chopped tomatoes and sliced chilli, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add in mussels and stir well to cover with sauce.
Cover your pan and let the mussels cook for 5-7 minutes. Shake or stir the mussels every 2-3 minutes to make sure they cook evenly.
Just before serving, stir half the fresh herbs into the pan. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
To serve: Ladle the mussels and sauce into bowls and garnish with the remaining fresh herbs.
How to de-beard and clean mussels ready for cooking:
* I have no affiliation with Kinawooka or Boston Bay - or ANY food company for that matter. In fact, I have had no contact or communication with either company at all. I'm mentioning them because I regularly cook and enjoy these mussels, and I know I would have appreciated a recommendation or two when I was a newbie to cooking mussels at home.