In the old riverbed of Valencia (Turia Gardens) in the ‘Festival de las Naciones’ I was happily sitting in the sun, sipping margaritas in the Mexican tent with friends, when I noticed the Aussie camp. Bounding over there, what did I find: Kangaroo sandwiches, Buffalo burgers and FOSTERS! I got a great giggle out of it, but I was crying out, “Where’s the seafood?” While I don’t mind the odd Roo sanga, (bocadillo de Canguro), I think seafood features a little more frequently on our menus Down-Under.

As I was lazing with my margarita and my friends, I was thinking I should write about one of my favorite seafood dishes. Originally it’s probably Italian, but I’m from Fremantle and we had a lot of European immigrants in the 1940s and 1950s, which is probably where the influence came from.

Now that spring is here and we’re sitting outside in the sun, on our terraces, or in the park drinking a few cervezas, it’s the perfect time for some seafood! A big bowl of chilli mussels with fresh tomatoes, basil, and crusty bread, is the perfect summer combination. Black-lip mussels (mejillones), used in this recipe, are readily available from the Central Market of Valencia.

Serves 4-6

1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 fresh red chillies, chopped and seeds removed if really hot
2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves chopped
1 cup dry white wine at room temperature
8 pear tomatoes roughly chopped with skins and seeds and sprinkled liberally with sugar, salt and pepper.
1 tsp Sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp capers (optional)
1 large handful fresh basil leaves
1-2 kg black-lip mussels
2 cups dry white wine, at room temperature.

Wash and clean the beards off all the mussels and remove any barnacles with the back of a knife. Return to the coldest part of your fridge, or freezer, until ready to use. Discard any mussels with broken shells, or any that have already opened. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and allow it to warm before adding about 1 tbsp of olive oil. To this pan add the onions and sauté, taking care not to brown them, until soft and translucent, about 10mins. Add the garlic, rosemary and chili and cook, stirring frequently, for a further 5mins. Increase the heat slightly and pour in the room temperature white wine, it should bubble straight away. Let it simmer until reduced by half, about 5-8mins.

Reduce the heat to medium again and add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a steady boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and saucy, about 25-30mins. In another pot, bring 2 cups of white wine to a boil and drop the cleaned mussels into this. Allow them to steam until opened, about 3-5mins. Discard those that don’t open. While the mussels are steaming, add the capers (if using) and basil leaves to the tomato sauce, remove from the heat. Add the mussels to the sauce and serve in a large bowl, with fresh crusty bread.

I like to keep the skins and the seeds of the tomatoes in this dish. In most dishes like this, they are removed, but for me it adds to the rustic flavour of the dish and that’s what I’m looking for with this recipe.

¡Que aproveche!

Erica Choate

Article copyright 24/7 Valencia

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