Friday, 29 August 2014

Quick and easy shellfish suppers

By Liz Atkins

Are you missing watching the waves rolling on to the beach as you sip a chilled white and look forward to the catch of the day? Well, there’s no reason we shouldn’t bring some of our better eating experiences home at the end of the summer holidays. 

We should be eating two portions of fish a week, say health experts, but as a nation we’re buying less than we did even five years ago. White varieties such as cod, oil-rich fish such as salmon, and shellfish like mussels are all full of nutrients, so why are we so shy of cooking them ourselves?

It took a trip to Greece for me to see the light. When I visited Ammouliani earlier this summer, the main draw was the beaches (this small island in the Mount Athos area is a favourite with Greek and Italian tourists for its crystal clear waters and laidback beachside tavernas but, strangely, isn’t so much on the Brit holidaymaker’s radar), but it was the fish-based diet that got me thinking. 

I’ve never cooked much shellfish myself, but I’ve realised there’s really nothing to fear. I was offered seafood in so many wonderful dishes (some of them a bit octo-tastic for my squeamish tastes), that I filched a couple of the local restaurant chefs’ recipes to try at home.

The best thing is, they’re quick and easy.

Ah, fish… let me count the ways I love you

Quick mussels in spicy sauce
If you’ve never thought of swapping your Tuesday night pasta pesto for a bowlful of steaming mussels, try this easy recipe (great with linguine, tagliatelle or spaghetti). Who knows, we may still get a few hot days in September and be able to enjoy it in the garden pretending to be on holiday.

Serves 2 (or 4 if served with pasta)

1kg fresh or frozen mussels
1tbsp olive oil
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
Chilli, chopped, to taste
Zest and juice 1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
Mustard, to taste
Handful fresh oregano leaves
Handful fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped
A little feta cheese, crumbled, to sprinkle

Wash the mussels in plenty of cold water, pulling off any beards from the shells and scraping off any barnacles using the back of a sharp knife. Discard any open mussels that won’t close when given a tap on a work surface. (If frozen, follow the pack instructions).
2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the chopped tomato, peppers and chilli and fry for a few min until softened. Add the lemon zest and slices with the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, the lemon juice, mustard and freshly ground black pepper, then cover and cook for 3­–4 min until the shells are open.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and discard any shells that remain closed. Gently stir through most of the parsley and oregano and serve sprinkled with the feta and remaining herbs, with freshly cooked pasta if you like.

Simple Mediterranean stir-fry
A140g serving of shellfish (cooked weight) counts as one of your two weekly portions of fish. It’s high in protein but not fat (although it does contain omega-3s, which are good for your heart), so tuck in.

Serves 2–3

1tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 peppers (orange, yellow or red – or a mix), sliced
400g bag mixed seafood, eg prawns, mussels, scallops and squid (such as Waitrose Fruits de Mer), thawed if frozen
1 garlic clove, crushed
60ml white wine
120ml fish stock
Small handful fresh rosemary, chopped
Small handful fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the peppers for a few min until softened. Add the seafood and garlic and cook on medium-high for 4–5 min (or according to the pack instructions). Add the wine and stock and bring to the boil.
2. Add the rosemary and most of the parsley, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3–4 min until the sauce reduces. Serve straightaway, sprinkled with the rest of the parsley, with salad and hunks of wholemeal bread, if you like.

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