It was the New Zealand green lip mussels that I grew to adore on my trip around the world a few years ago, but I think the mussels farmed off our own shores are superior. Smaller, yes, but they have a better flavour. This risotto with mussels dish was enjoyed a few months ago after a trip to Cork’s English market.
900g fresh mussels
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
2/3 tin of chopped tomatoes
120ml white wine
200g shallots, finely chopped
400g risotto rice
1 litre of vegetable stock (homemade if possible)
4-5 tbsp olive oil
First off, clean and prepare the mussels. In a pot, heat two tbsp olive oil over a medium-high heat and add the garlic. When it starts to colour add the tomatoes and season with sea salt. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce down before adding the wine and mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels open. This should only take a few minutes. Take off the heat, remove the mussels from the pot, leaving aside 10-12 in their shells and discard the shells of the remaining.
Ensure the hot vegetable stock is prepared and ready to use. Separately, in a large pot, heat the remaining olive oil over a medium heat and add the onion. When soft, add the rice and cook for about two minutes. Add the tomato sauce from the other pot and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.
Start adding a ladleful of the hot broth, just enough to cover the rice each time. The risotto should be bubbling with the heat. The rice should become al dente around 20 minutes. The grains should be firm without being chalky in the centre. The overall texture should be creamy, not stiff or like soup. Taste to see if it needs more salt, and then add the chopped parsley and return the shelled and unshelled mussels to the pot. Serve straight up in bowls.
The wine match
Whether you love red, white or rosé, you’re in luck because there’s a lot of wine you could pair with this. If it is to be red, go for something light and fruity that isn’t overly tannic. The new Solonio Fontanapiana is made from the Montepulciano grape and has a very fresh, youthful style.
Take your pick with the white. Keeping with the Italian theme, another couple of new additions that would work well are the Borgo Magredo Pinot Grigio and the Goccia Lison Classico. For rosé, keep it pale, clean, crisp and dry – Château Bauduc Bordeaux Rosé.