Mussels are cheap, quick to cook and sustainable – they have the luxury factor of seafood but at a fraction of the price of clams, prawns or scallops.
Mussels saganaki is a traditional Greek appetizer served at every Psarotaverna (fish tavern) in Greece, typically served straight from the skillet (saganaki) it is cooked in, with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the delicious spicy tomato sauce.
The balance of flavours of this dish is truly incredible; if you can use fresh, sweet, ripe tomatoes, the flavour will be even better. If fresh tomatoes are not available, good quality canned ones are an acceptable substitute for year-round enjoyment of this dish.
- 600kg Gower mussels
- 200kg Greek feta cheese
- 500ml fresh vine tomatoes chopped or a can of good quality chopped tomatoes
- 200ml water (only if you are using fresh tomatoes)
- 50ml ouzo
- 150ml white wine
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 3 banana shallots sliced
- 2 tsp chopped parsley
- 2 tsp chopped dill
- 1 tsp tomato purée
- Rock salt and ground white pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Tabasco sauce (optional)
Wash the mussels thoroughly (see below) and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, cook for about 4 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, until the garlic and the onions are soft. Pay attention so you don’t burn the onions or garlic as they will lose their sweetness and turn bitter.
Increase the heat to high, add the wine and ouzo and cook until the alcohol has evaporated.
Next, stir in the fresh chopped tomatoes or canned tomatoes and tomato purée.
Season with rock salt and ground white pepper and cook until tomatoes start to break down and release their juices, about 5 minutes, crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon.
Add the mussels to the pot and give them a quick stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Discard any mussels that did not open.
At this stage I personally like to add a few drops of Tabasco sauce for extra spice.
Crumble the feta cheese over the top and gently mix the feta through just before serving.
Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the sauce!
Mussels tips as published at the BBC good food site
Like all shellfish, mussels need to be eaten exceptionally fresh and do need a bit of washing and preparation before cooking.
Mussels must be alive to ensure their freshness and their shells should be closed to make sure they are alive. If any are open, they should close when tapped or squeezed. When looking at a big batch in the fishmongers, avoid buying them if lots are open.
Other indications of freshness:
They should smell pleasantly of the sea, avoid any that smell fishy.
If there is a choice, always choose smaller mussels over larger ones, as smaller ones are sweeter and more succulent.
To prepare the mussels for cooking:
Rinse them under cold running water, tossing them over with your hands to give any that may have opened a chance to close.
Scrub away any barnacles if you want, but this isn’t essential.
One-by-one, pinch and tug away the stringy thread from the side of the shell known as the ‘beard’. Not all mussels have beards so if you can’t find one, don’t worry.
If the mussels are open, give them a squeeze and discard any that remain open or any with a broken shell.
It’s best to store, then prepare the mussels before cooking, rather than prepare and store ready for cooking.
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