Steamed Mussel Pasta

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A while ago, I heard that the nice people behind Cully & Sully are running a competition. Now, Cully & Sully are actually a brand close to my heart. They launched (or perhaps more accurately, became available in my local Superquinn) back when I was sitting my Leaving Cert. And, caught up in the hype of the exam, I used to stay for late night study in my school several times a week – although those who were there can attest to the fact that studying was not always our top priority.

Dinner was eaten in the home economics room; a hastily prepared affair. Avonmore soups always featured prominently – I ate so much Tomato and Basil soup that year that truthfully, I don’t think I’ve had it again since. Then there was the mixed-bag of leftovers from whatever the rest of your family had eaten for dinner the evening before. Stir fry, I learnt, does not microwave well. And then, one day, someone discovered Cully & Sully. It was a chicken dish, in it’s own little ceramic dish, and it was delicious. I have quite the collection of ceramic dishes now to prove it. Fish pie, I think, also made an appearance.

So when I heard Cully & Sully were launching their ChefFactor competition, I got very excited and started planning my entry immediately. Obviously my Macbook is deeply attuned to my emotional state, because I woke up the next morning to find the power supply had gotten over-excited itself during the night, unfortunately, of the sizzling and fizzling kind. The issues with finding a new power cable don’t bear discussing, except to say that I am blessed with fantastic flatmates, who only require that I occasionally bake for them (of which more later).

In any case, the competition remains pretty nifty. You bake a dish, you take a photo of you and your dish (with the words Cully&Sully visible in the photo) and you get the chance to win a €12,000 cookery course at the world-acclaimed Ballymaloe Cookery School. You can even pick whether you want to do the course in January 2011 or January 2012.

More information can be found over on the official website but the important thing to note is that you can enter right up until November 24th (though voting starts on October 25th so you might want to get your entry up by then!). They’re not looking for Masterchef standard – that’s what Ballymaloe is for – just a dish that you’ve prepared yourself, even if it’s just beans on toast (I like mine with chorizo and tabasco… mmm).

I still haven’t managed to come up with my entry yet but in the mean time, I leave you with this humble, but oh-so-tasty steamed mussel pasta. Who knew mussels were so cheap? Mine were from the ever-reliable Kish Fish and cost €3 for a kilo. Success!

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Steamed Mussel Pasta

Serves 2*

* This makes a double quantity of pasta sauce – either do as I did and freeze half the tomato sauce or double the amount of mussels and spagetti to serve 4.

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 red chili (optional)
2 x 400g tins tomato (I used 1 tin plum tomatoes, 1 tin cherry tomatoes)
1 glass white wine (optional)
1 anchovy in oil, mashed (optional)
250g wholewheat spaghetti
1 kg fresh mussels
Olive oil
Black pepper
Fresh basil

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and chili if using, fry gently until the onions become translucent.
  2. Add the tomatoes, wine and anchovy. Gently break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, simmer over a low heat for about 45 minutes, until the sauce has reduced.
  3. Meanwhile prepare the mussels. Wash them in a colander, rubbing them roughly against one another to remove any beards and crusty bits.
  4. Tap the mussels sharply against the counter, discarding any that do not close after a minute or two.
  5. When the tomato sauce has been on for about thirty five minutes, bring a pot of water to the boil. Then cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet – probably for about 12 minutes.
  6. By this stage, the tomato sauce should be just about ready. Add a handful of fresh basil, finely torn. If you do want to freeze some of the pasta sauce, spoon it into a separate container now.
  7. Add the mussels to the pot of tomato sauce, and turn up the heat. Put on the lid and steam the mussels for three minutes. Discard any mussels which do not open.
  8. Drain the pasta, add to the mussel and tomato sauce mix. Serve with fresh basil.
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