"The allure of preserved seafood is something that I can never seem to escape and luckily for me the southern Italians (and, of course, the Spanish) have this craft down to an exquisite art form," writes Carlo Grossi in Ombra. "Oilier fish such as mackerel and sardines are stunning when preserved but there is something about the saltiness of mussels that just works so well. This dish is somewhat inspired by the Calabrians – they like things hot, but you can dial the heat up or down with the 'nduja as you like."
150ml white wine
500g local mussels, scrubbed and debearded
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 small red chilli
5 teaspoons smoked paprika
50g tomato paste
50ml white wine vinegar
Salt and cracked black pepper
150g 'nduja, at room temperature
50ml olive oil
Crusty bread, to serve
1. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Pour in a third of the white wine, then add the mussels and cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Holding down the lid, carefully shake the pan to help open the mussels. Remove from the heat and scoop out the mussels. Strain the liquid and keep it for later use. You’ll need about 100ml. Remove the mussels from their shells and set them aside, discarding the shells.
2. Heat the olive oil with the garlic and chilli in a frying pan over low heat for about 2 minutes. Mix in the paprika and cook, taking care not to let the garlic burn, for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook for a further 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the remaining wine, the vinegar and the reserved mussel juice. Allow to simmer and reduce by a third. Add the mussels and cook over low heat to infuse for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer the mussels and cooking liquid to an airtight container and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight for the flavours to develop. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
4. To finish, strain the mussels from the sauce, reserving the sauce. Combine the 'nduja olive oil in a bowl and stir vigorously to lighten the mixture. Using your fingers, stuff a small amount of 'nduja into the cavity of each mussel to make them plump.
5. Serve the filled mussels on a serving plate or in a bowl and cover with the sauce. Serve with crusty bread.
This is an edited extract from Ombra by Carlo Grossi, published by Penguin Random House (RRP $39.99). Available now from good booksellers, online and in-store.
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