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I made this to soothe my soul. I’ve been planning a long-overdue trip back home to Western Australia and as part of that trip, we’ll be heading ‘down south’ (i.e south of Perth) for a spell.  Think pristine white beaches, beautiful forests, all set in the wonderful Margaret River wine region and drenched in sun.  It’s a popular destination at that time of year and I’ve spent every spare minute for the last couple of weeks on the internet searching for accommodation, emailing family and on the phone. Life has ground to a halt. The washing is piling up.  Cooking has ceased.  Molly is surviving on baked beans, fish fingers and possibly the carcasses of lady birds. And immersing myself in it all has made me home-sick.

So, when I saw mussels in season and on ice at the shops the other day, I couldn’t resist churning out an old Australian favourite – chilli mussels.  It’s really not a dish you see much in the UK as the French Moules Frites is more de rigueur , though the recipe probably has its origins in the Med, brought over by a clever Italian.

This is not a particularly authentic recipe.   I had a red pepper knocking about so I pre-roasted that and added it in.  I also didn’t use fresh tomatoes.  They’re out of season and are so bland and tasteless this time of year, I turned to tinned.

Enjoyed with a glass of chilled Sauv Blanc and hunks of home-made baguette, I was temporarily transported (not in the convict sense) back home. If you’re traditionally wedded to wine and garlic with your mussels, I strongly suggest you give this a go. Spirit lifting in February.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 2 small red chillies or 1 red chilli plus chilli powder
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 2 anchovies (tinned or jarred)
  • 2  x 400g tins tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded, roasted and skinned.
  • Half teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lots of flat leaf parsley

Method:

If you are adding a red pepper, suggest you pop that in a hot oven first (quartered and de-seeded).  Grilling also fine. Meanwhile, sweat the onion for a bit, add the chilli and chopped anchovies for a bit followed by the garlic.  When the onions have softened and a little clear, add the wine and cook off the alcohol for a bit. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for 40-mins to an hour. This is one of those sauces that is always best made the day before and then tinkered with.  If you like it hot, add more chilli etc.  I always leave the fresh herbs until the moment of serving. Just prior to serving, blend the sauce with a handheld blender.  THis isn’t strictly necessary but I wanted the pepper blended in with the sauce. Leave it chunky if you prefer.

Discard any broken or open mussels that don’t close when you give them a tap. De-beared the mussels before popping them in a large pan on a high heat with about 200ml of water or wine in the bottom.  Add the mussels when the water or wine is boiling and steaming.  With the lid, let the mussels steam open.  Should take no more than a few minutes (and certainly no more than 5 though of course depends on quantities).  Once ready, drain, add back to the pot and add the finished sauce followed by the fresh herbs. Remember to discard any mussels that are broken or haven’t opened.