Thanks to all of you who donated so generously for Menu for Hope 4 - the campaign ended yesterday and we managed to raise no less than $82,000 which is an impressive £41,309 in real money!!! What a fantastic end-of-the-year effort - and it does mean that once again the foodbloggers of this world can actually change people's lives for the better, other than just expanding the waistlines of their loved ones.
Speaking of expanding waistlines (and I'd better leave it at that or that'll be that for family peace this Christmas), we've had my brother over for a few days and the night he arrived, he was treated to some mussels. Pretty cheap seafood over here, mussels really are a treat in Austria - having no access to the sea whichever side you look, all seafood is imported back home and that makes it not only expensive, but also the quality isn't that great most of the time. So whenever we have visitors, I make sure to treat them to the many fresh seawater delicacies that this country has to offer.
That night, I had very summery feelings despite the freezing cold outside and my eyes fell on a tim of saffron strands. Saffron never used to feature much in my life other than that old nursery rhyme "backe, backe kuchen", but I have been using it more than ever this past year. And while I normally am pretty traditional when it comes to mussels (the classic method with some garlic and white wine, plus a dash of cream is, after all, a winning formula), I did rather like this lighter, fresher recipe. Go on, try it, it'll lift your spirits on a dreary winter's day!
Saffron tomato mussels
(serves 4 generously)
4 tbsp cooking oil
2 cloves garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
4 g saffron
100 ml oloroso sherry
440 g can chopped tomatoes
250 g vegetable stock
1 pinch chilli flakes
3 kg rope-grown mussels
Place the mussels in a kitchen sink filled with cold, lightly salted, water.
Soak the saffron strands in the sherry for about 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pot, fry the garlic slices until just browning, then add the sherry and saffron, followed by the tomatoes. Leave to reduce for a few minutes, then add the vegetable stock and chilli flakes. Season to taste, but no salt, if possible, as your mussels will add a lot of salt water to the pan.
Leave to infuse while you clean the mussels.
Remove all beards carefully, check each individual one to make sure it's still alive - if it is open and doesn't immediately close when you tap it against the worktop, discard it. It might be fine, but the risk of you hugging the toilet the day after is one you're not prepared to take. The same applies once they're cooked, it the mussel isn't fully opened, it's either not cooked enough or there's something else wrong with it - in either case, give it the cold shoulder!
Re-heat the sauce and as soon as it's boiling, add the mussels and put on a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shells are wide open, then stir through and serve immediately, with some fresh or grilled garlic bread on the side.