The mussels from Northumberland at this time of the year are outstanding. Plump, juicy and lightly fragranced from the sea that they are grown in, they are one of my favourite cheap and fast eats.
When I buy mussels, all I want to do with them is cook them quickly in nothing more than a glass of cider or wine, perhaps a handful of fresh herbs throw in, then eat with bread and butter. This is my personal treat, one that I can indulge myself with for no reason at all. Their taste is unique, quite hard to describe but one to savour, a true taste of the sea. Their texture is light, fluffy and melting. Unless you cook them for too long of course.
Sage is not a herb I would associate with shellfish too much but with a large sage bush in the garden not being used too much, I guessed an intense sage oil, injected with a bit of chilli heat, might be a flavour that the mussels could benefit from. With some tomatoes from the weekly organic bag, simply roasted whole and squashed with a fork, it all came together with fresh local samphire and tagliatelle to make for a very clean tasting, fresh and memorable tea. Flex your mussels.
Mussels, Samphire, Sage and Chilli Oil with Tagliatelle
4 handfuls of mussels, de-bearded and cleaned
1 small glass of cider, white wine or water
2 handfuls of samphire
8 rounds of dried tagliatelle
For the oil
A handful of sage
1 dried or fresh birds eye chilli, seeds removed
2 tbsp olive oil
A squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C, GM4. Cut a cross into the base of the tomatoes. Place into a baking tray and drizzle on a little oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes until softened and starting to colour. Pinch off the skins then mash the flesh roughly in a bowl.
2 - Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook for 7-8 minutes.
3 - Whilst the pasta is cooking, make the sage oil. In a pestle and mortar, grind together the sage and chilli with a pinch of salt and pepper to form a green paste. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Heat up another pan with a lid. Add the mussels then pour in your liquid of choice. Put on the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the shells have opened. Discard any that remain shut. Throw in the samphire and butter and leave to sit with the lid on for 1 minute.
5 - When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan. Tip in the roasted tomato flesh, mussels and samphire. Combine then serve into bowls.
6 - Drizzle with the sage oil and serve with some sage leaves crisped in a little olive oil.