Nothing beats a morning clambering around on the rocks, finding mussels and bringing them home for lunch. Then sitting and cleaning them over a bucket with barnacles flying in all directions and those annoying little beards resisting your hardest efforts at tugging! I once spent a summer in the Outer Hebrides, where the mussels were so plentiful we could eat them every day. As with all seafood, please NEVER eat a mussel that needs forcing open.
3½lbfresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
3tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
2 or 3garlic cloves, unpeeled and lightly crushed
ahandful of chopped fresh Italian parsley
1cupdry white wine
8slicesciabatta bread, lightly toasted and rubbed with a peeled garlic clove
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Discard any mussels that remain closed. Place all the mussels in a wide skillet with no liquid at all and place them over a medium heat. Cover the skillet with a lid and shake to help the mussels to open.
Once all the mussels are open, remove them from the skillet and strain their liquor into a bowl. Reserve the liquor and discard all the mussels that remain closed. Reserve the remaining mussels until required.
Heat the olive oil in the same skillet. Add the garlic and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and puréed tomatoes, season to taste, and stir thoroughly.
Add the reserved mussels and wine and mix together thoroughly. Cook over a high heat for about 4 minutes, then remove the skillet from the heat.
Arrange the toasted garlic bread in the base of a wide bowl. Drizzle a thin stream of olive oil over the bread slices, then pour the mussels and all the liquid over the bread.
Serve immediately, remembering to place an empty bowl in the middle of the table for the empty mussel shells.