Mussel Time

Often regarded as poor man's shellfish, mussels are cheap and plentiful

I love mussels. They are great value for money, entirely sustainable and have a wonderful gutsy flavour with an amazing aroma. After cooking you are also left with an intense cooking liquid that offers up the most incredible taste and that, is just the half of it. Mussels are also a good source of vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid and omega 3.

Spanish Mussels, along with clams, appear in just about every seafood dish you care to imagine from the ubiquitous Paella to the various fish soups, stews and calderetas all along Spain’s vast coastline. 

In the sheltered bays of the Spanish Atlantic coast, mussels are commercially grown hanging from ropes attached to stakes in mussel farms. The constant exchange of water through the ebb and flow of the tide encourages the build-up of plankton, the mussels' main
food. Today there are over 3,000 firmly anchored floats along the coast of Galicia alone, from which the mussel-covered ropes are suspended. The ropes, which can weigh over 250 pounds, are hauled into boats and stripped of their harvest.

Because mussels tend to live in shallow sandy waters, they tend to take grit and other particles into their shell when they feed.  When placed in a bucket of cold salted water with a sprinkling of oatmeal or flour, the shellfish will feed on the oatmeal and excrete the dirt. Wash the shells thoroughly, using a scrubbing brush to remove any barnacles and remove their "beards," the hairy looking filaments that adhere their shells to the rocks. Discard any that are not tightly closed or have broken shells. Give them a little tap on the tabletop to see if they close.

Mussels are very versatile and combine well with so many other ingredients. At Fosh Kitchen we cook them Greek style with Feta cheese & oregano and they are truly delicious. I also think they work so well with Thai flavours and I often cook them at home with lemongrass, chili, coriander and coconut milk.

Other good combos for mussels include anchovies, Garlic & leeks-Saffron, tomatoes & spinach-Fennel, Orange & Basil-Bacon, breadcrumbs & thyme. They are also perfect with curry powder. The Spanish have some wonderful ways of cooking mussels. Try these recipes and you’ll know exactly what I mean. 

Sopa catalana de Mejillones  
Catalan-style mussel soup

1kl       Fresh mussels 

2tbsp   olive oil 

1          onion, chopped 

2          garlic clove, finely chopped 

3          large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

100ml  anis liqueur or pernod 

1tsp     paprika 

200ml  fish stock 

½tsp    ground cinnamon             

A pinch of saffron             

Juice of ½ a lemon 

2tbsp   Fresh parsley, chopped 

4          slices of stale bread             


Clean the mussels, discarding any that are broken or slightly open.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sweat the chopped onions and garlic over a gentle flame until they start to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked and the sauce has thickened.

Add the fish stock, mussels, saffron, paprika and cinnamon. Cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes until all the mussels are open. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and remove them from their shells. Return the mussels back to the saucepan. Add the anis or pernod. Season with salt and pepper, and add the lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Line the soup bowls with the sliced bread, pour over the hot soup and serve immediately.

Mejillones Rellenos 
Stuffed mussel

Ingredients:     serves 4      


1kl       fresh mussels 

1          large red bell pepper, finely chopped 

2          garlic cloves, chopped 

1          medium onion, finely chopped 

4tbsp   olive oil 

2tbsp   parsley, finely chopped 

½tsp    paprika 

200ml  dry white wine             

Juice of ½ a lemon             

Pinch of “Flor de sal”


Clean the mussels well in cold water, removing their beards and scraping away any barnacles that have stuck to the shell.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sweat the chopped peppers, onions and garlic over a gentle flame until they start to soften. Add the paprika, dry white wine and the clean mussels. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook gently until for about 8-10 minutes and all the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed.

Remove from the heat; and when cool enough to handle, extract the mussels from their shells. Discard half of the mussel’s shells, and place a cooked mussel in each one of the remaining shells.

Add the chopped parsley and lemon juice to the pepper mixture and season with “flor de sal”. Place a spoonful of pepper mixture over each mussel and serve immediately with lemon wedges and salad leaves.

Mejillones con Aceitunas y Jerez  
Spanish-Style Mussels with Olives and sherry       

Ingredients:     serves 4   

1.2kl    Fresh Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned 

4          Garlic cloves, crushed 

3          Tomatoes, peeled and diced 

1          Onion, finely chopped 

24        Green Olives (manzanillas), finely chopped 

½         red pepper, finely chopped 

100ml  Dry Sherry 

2tbsp   Fresh Parsley, finely chopped 

2tbsp   Olive Oil             

Juice of one lemon             


Heat the olive oil over a gentle flame. Add the onion, red pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften. Add the clean mussels, stirring so they are evenly coated in the vegetable mixture. Add the sherry, cover with a lid and steam until the Mussels just begin to open (about 4-5 minutes). Add the green olives, chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and parsley. Cover with the lid and cook for a further minute. Bring the saucepan to the table, remove the lid and serve.