Mejillones a la Marinera
On a recent visit to Brussels I ordered a plate of mussels. Imagine my surprise when I found that they’re half the size of Spanish ones and cost three times the price! No wonder mussels in Spain are often regarded as ‘el marisco de los pobres’ (poor man’s shellfish) when they cost so little and are so widely available at fish counters.
Spain is Europe’s largest supplier of mussels with 90% being produced on rafts called ‘bateas’ in the waters of Galicia. There are thousands of these floating mussel farms in the Vigo estuary and in the adjacent Rías Baixas which have ropes hanging from them on which mussels and oysters are grown. Much smaller quantities of mussels are also farmed in Catalonia and Andalusia and an even smaller number of wild mussels are collected from rocky coastlines.
This mussels recipe is our version of the classic ‘Mejillones a la Marinera’ which is packed with strong Spanish flavours. It uses the traditional technique of frying onion, garlic in olive oil to create a ‘sofrito’ before adding tomato, white wine and mussels. You can control the spiciness of this dish by deciding between hot or sweet paprika. Some chefs even add chilli peppers (guindillas) to make it a very spicy dish.
Serves 4 main courses or 6 – 8 starters
- 2 ½kg mussels
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 150ml white wine
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- crusty bread
First find a large pan with a lid. Heat some olive oil in the pan and add the onions and garlic and let them fry gently for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile clean the mussels. Remove the beards and clean the outside of the shells – some people like to scrape the shells to get them spotless but I don’t think you need to go to overboard. Throw out any that are broken or that don’t close when you touch them. You could soak them in cold, salty water for a while which might make them open and lose any grains of sand inside them.
Once the onions have been frying for 20 minutes add all the other ingredients except the mussels and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and gently simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes to let all the flavours come out.
Turn the heat back up, add the mussels and cover. Leave to cook for about 5 minutes until the shells open.
Serve in large bowls with plenty of fresh crusty bread to soak up the wonderful sauce.