Linguine with Mussels and Walnut Parsley Pesto
For me, mussels are still a luxury food that cost very little money. I don't think anything can match their exquisite, fresh-from-the-sea flavour. In this recipe every precious drop of mussel juice is used, which gives a lovely, concentrated flavour. Now that mussels come ready cleaned and prepared, it makes the whole thing very simple and easy: all you have to do is put them in cold water, then pull off any beardy strands with a sharp knife, use them as soon as possible and discard any that don't close tightly when given a sharp tap.
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This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection. It has also appeared in Sainsbury's Magazine (Guide to Fish Cookery).
First prepare the pesto: select a large pan that will hold the mussels comfortably, then in it heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the walnuts in the hot oil to get them nicely toasted on all sides – this will take 1-2 minutes. Place the walnuts and any oil left in the pan into a blender or food processor, add the parsley and garlic, the remaining tablespoon of oil and seasoning, then blend everything to make a purée.
Next, you need to deal with the mussels: heat the olive oil in the same pan that you sautéed the walnuts in, add the shallot and chopped garlic and cook these over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they're just soft. Now turn the heat up high, tip in the prepared mussels and add the wine and some salt and pepper. Put on a close-fitting lid, turn the heat down to medium and cook the mussels for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice or until they have all opened. Discard any that remain closed.
During those 5 minutes bring another large pan of salted water up to the boil. Then, when the mussels are cooked, remove them from the heat and transfer them to a warm bowl using a slotted spoon and shaking each one well, so that no juice is left inside. Keep 8 mussels aside still in their shells, for a garnish. Then remove the rest from their shells and keep them warm, covered with foil in a low oven. Then place a sieve lined with muslin or gauze over a bowl and strain the mussel liquor through it. This is very important as it removes any bits of sand or grit that get lodged in the mussel shells.
Now it's time to pop the pasta into the boiling water and put a timer on for 8 minutes (some pasta might need 10 minutes, so follow the instructions on the packet). Then pour the strained mussel liquor back into the original saucepan and fast-boil to reduce it by about one-third. After that turn the heat to low and stir in the pesto.
Now add the shelled mussels to the pesto sauce and remove it from the heat. As soon as the pasta is cooked, quickly strain it in a colander and divide it between two hot pasta bowls. Spoon the mussels and pesto over each portion, add the mussels in their shells and scatter over the parsley. Serve absolutely immediately with some well chilled white wine. Yummy!
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