It used to get freezing in the Prince Albert Mansion. Its ceilings were high, rooms enormous; you had to wear five layers just to hang out in the lounge. The stove was as close we had to a heater, which kept the kitchen warm and, at mealtime, the kitchen became our huddling ganglion.
On Thursdays in winter we cooked mussels. I’d ride down to the Queen Vic market in the morning, take a kilo from the jovial Greek fishmonger and, come the rain-swept, chilly night, rug up with the housies in the kitchen, where we’d crack open a few bottles of red and warm our hungry bellies with delicious bursts of hot musselly goodness.
Since moving to Europe, Hon and I have whipped this dish up in Nice, Avignon, Montpellier and countless times here in Berlin. Call them mussels, moules or muschelin, these little shelled sea-dwellers make the ultimate easy-to-cook, understatedly impressive staple—cheap, environmentally friendly and endlessly satisfying.
Perfect for two (or a full house), Prince Albert Mussels remains our all time favourite, the gut warmer that will forever transport us back to the best of times with the best of folks in our chilly, soulful old Carlton home.
- 1kg mussels
- 4 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
- 400g good quality tomatoes (tinned or fresh)
- 1 Bunch of coriander (approx. 2 cups), finely chopped
- 1 Red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 Cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 Hot red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 Loaf of crusty bread (ciabatta/Turkish, any really.)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6)
- Scrub and de-beard mussels*. In a large pot* add the olive oil and heat on medium. Add the onion and cook/sweat until almost transparent. Then add the garlic and chilli, and cook over low to medium heat for approx. 3 mins. A splash of white wine can be added at this point if you like*.
- Add the tomatoes and stir regularly, let simmer for approx. 10 mins. Then add the coriander to the pot and stir. Simmer for a further few minutes, season the broth and turn up the temperature to high.
- Once the mixture is bubbling hot, pour in the mussels.
- Shake the pot a little to ensure all mussels are covered and pop the lid on the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes on high depending on the size of your mussels, stirring once if necessary.
- Put the bread on a tray and pop into the oven.
- Once the mussels are cooked, remove the lid and remove the pot from the heat. Divide the mussels and broth/soup between bowls, top with finely chopped fresh coriander and generous sprinkles of salt and pepper.
- Remove the hot crusty bread from the oven, chop/tear into chunky pieces and serve with the mussels.
- Get your mussel on!
See those dangly bits of ‘hair’ protruding from the mussels? You need to rip them out. As for excess barnacles or sea-murk on the shells, fresh, detergent-free steel wool works well to clean them up.
Also: Be sure to tap any ‘open’ mussels and watch to see if they slowly close. If they don’t, they might not be too fresh. Give them a miss if so. (Contrary to popular belief, mussels that do not open after cooking are still good to eat).
At the mansion, we used to use Hon’s round Le Creuset, a deluxe pot that makes food taste that little bit better. In Berlin though, we use a pretty standard stainless steel job that does the trick just fine.
Just throw a dash in if you’ve got a bottle lying around. It's not crucial.
Can easily be doubled to serve 8 with double ingredients (make sure you’ve got a big enough pot).