There are very few things that would get me out of bed on a very dreach Saturday morning at the start of February other than a compulsory P7 hockey run, No 2 daughter Ballet class or Victor whisking me off to Paris for the weekend.
But my Slow Food heart got me to the Edinburgh Farmers Market on time last Saturday. 9.30pm start and we were good to go. Cooking Zuppa di Cozze, a classic Neapolitan spicy tomato broth with steamed Scottish mussels. What could be more delicious.
I love marrying my Italian food heritage with the best Scottish ingredients. The Italians love our shellfish. Imports to Europe from all around Scotland exceed domestic consumption. Our foreign neighbours know a good thing when they taste it and are happy to pay for it too.
Mussels are always best in the cold months, the old tale of a R in the month will never let you down, as the crisp icy waters keep them flesh firm and sweet.
Andrew, Mike and Eleanora the local Slow Food Edinburgh stallworth’s were manning the monthly stall at the market on Castle Terrace. With a very fancy new double induction hob we were cooking faster than you could cover your ears to the sound of the one o’clock gun.
Slow Food values are the standard bearer for anyone who is passionate about good honest fair clean food. Food that is good for the environment, good for the people who grown or produce and good for our communities – and the added extra is they are good for our own health and wellbeing. No preservatives, no packaging, low air miles, sustainable practices that support communities living where the food is grown. 27 years ago when Carlo Petrini founded the movement in protest to McDonald’s opening its first fast food venue next to the Spanish Steps. Never has our slow food values had more meaning to me and to my community. My team prepare and cook our food with love. Knowing where the ingredients have come from, who has made them or grown them and sharing the community connection look after, nurture and support a much wider community. With the influx of chain restaurants hitting our beautiful city we are experience our own fast food moment – however it is packaged. The vast majority of these big chains don’t value the wider community of environmental choices that our artisan suppliers make and your independent restaurants choose to make.
Now slow food doesn’t mean we can’t do fast cooking. This recipe once you’ve prepared the mussels can be made in less than 30 minutes.
ZUPPA DI COZZE – Classic Southern Italian mussel soup – you can also download it using this link: Zuppa di Cozze Recipe
1 kilo spanking fresh mussels
500g tin Italian plum tomatoes
1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic
Dried or fresh chilli to your taste
Large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley (leaves only)
Splash of white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Maldon or Isle of Skye salt
First start by cleaning the mussels. Leave them in the sink with ice cold cold water for about 5 minutes. Any shells that are open or float to the top of the water – BIN! The rest scrape off any barnacles and cut off any of the beard that are visible from the shell.
Transfer the mussels to a bowl of cold water and leave in the fridge until you are ready to start cooking. I would never eat mussels that are more than a day old.
Next make the tomato base. Choose a large heavy bottomed casserole or stock pot. Take each plum tomato and roughly chop into 6 – 8 pieces. I like this texture as I feel it works with the mussels but you can use a passata if you prefer.
Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Add one or two cloves of sliced garlic. Add enough chilli to you taste. Allow the garlic and chilli to sizzle but not brown. Add two or three glugs of wine and cook to burn off the alcohol.
Next add the tomatoes. Stir and simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes until the tomatoes look glossy and silky.
Strain the mussels and add them to the hot sauce. Cover with a lid and steam until all the mussel shells are open. This will table about 4 or 5 minutes only. Season with a little salt and the chopped parsley.
Enjoy with a chunk of bruschetta.
Happy cooking… Love slow food and love our community.
PS I’ve only been whisked anywhere once, and that was 24 years ago, so drop a hint to Victor if you see him.