THERE IS A BAR IN THE BACKSTREETS OF SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA RUN BY A ONE-ARMED MAN. THE FIRST TIME I WENT THERE I WAS GREETED WITH THE WELCOMING SMELL OF CALDO GALLEGO, THE GALICIAN VERSION OF COCIDO. I WAS TOLD THE SOUP WOULDN’T BE READY UNTIL THE NEXT DAY, A THURSDAY — THE DAY FARMERS TRADITIONALLY CAME TO TOWN TO SELL THEIR PRODUCE. IT TOOK ME OVER A YEAR TO GET BACK TO SANTIAGO AND AFTER A DAY TRAVELLING THROUGH THE RAIN AND FOG I ARRIVED EARLY ONE THURSDAY EVENING. I WAS AGAIN GREETED BY THE WELCOMING SMELL OF THE SOUP. I ASKED FOR A BOWL. HAVE YOU BOOKED?’ WAS THE REPLY. ‘BECAUSE WE CAN ONLY SERVE YOU IF YOU HAVE MADE A BOOKING.’ I SAT AT THE BAR AND FOUND SOLACE IN THE GREAT PLATE OF MARINATED MUSSELS THEY SERVED AS TAPAS. THEY WERE BIG, MEATY, SWEET AND SITTING IN A WONDERFULLY SHARP AND FRAGRANT SAUCE MADE WITH SPICED WINE AND VINEGAR. WHEN PREPARING THE FOLLOWING RECIPE, USE ONLY THE BEST CHARDONNAY VINEGAR; IF YOU CAN’T FIND THIS, THEN USE A LITTLE LESS OF THE NEXT BEST. THESE MUSSELS ARE PERFECT WITH BEER AND CRUSTY BREAD.
Scrub the mussels and pull out the hairy beards. Rinse well and drain.
Place the mussels,
To make the escabeche, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onion is lightly coloured. Add the vinegar, paprika, peppercorns and the remaining wine, then bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Stir the mussels into the escabeche and pour into a shallow dish. Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled, with crusty bread and beer, or a glass of dry Spanish white wine such as albariño.
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