recipe: moules in a spicy tomato sauce

Nothing screams holiday more to me than a big steaming bowl of mussels; many a relaxed hour has been spent working my way through a veritable pile of shells with a glass or two of vino and some pleasant chatter. Living on an island we are lucky to be able to buy exceptionally fresh mussels on our doorstep, as they are farmed on the island’s east coast (take a walk on the Royal bay of Grouville when the tide is low and you can see the many beds of mussels and might even catch them being harvested).

Not only are mussels delicious but they are a very cost effective way to feed a crowd! 1kg of moules (which should feed 2 people) is often no more than £5-6. So why not recreate that trip to the Mediterranean and cook up this favourite at home?

Ingredients, serves 4

  • 2.25kg of fresh mussels (buy them as close to the day you will eat them as possible so that they are extra fresh and keep them in the fridge (out of water, or they will die) until you are ready to prepare them)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 chilli, diced (seeds removed if you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tin of cherry tomatoes (if you can’t get cherry tomatoes use two tins of plum tomatoes and add additional sugar when seasoning)
  • Pinch of sugar, optional
  • Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh dill, finely chopped

Serve with crusty French bread and crispy frites


  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Small knife to clean the mussels
  • Very large pot with a lid
  • Large spoon


1. Prepare the mussels. This may sound daunting but it really only needs a bit of time and a small bit of elbow grease:

– If any of the shells are open give them a tap with your finger to see if the mussel starts to close up; if it does, great but if not, throw it away (the mussel is dead). Throw away any shells that are cracked as well.

– Scrape the outside of the shells to remove any barnacles and pull off the ‘beard’. This is a small hairy, seaweed like string at the bottom of the mussel where the two sides of the shell meet; give it a good tug and it should come away.

2. Heat a glut of oil in the pot and fry off the shallots until they are translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1 minute.

3. Add the tomato paste and fry for 1-2 minutes to release the oils.

4. Add the white wine and cook off for 2 minutes so that the harsh alcohol taste is no longer there.

3. Add both tins of tomatoes. Season and bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes (leave the lid on if the sauce is relatively thick, or remove it if the sauce is a little thin and needs to thicken, remember that the mussels will release liquid when cooking). Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed (again remember the mussels will add saltiness), you may need to add a pinch of sugar.

4. Add the herbs and the mussels to the pot and cover with the pot’s lid for 5-7 minutes. The mussels will now steam and open.

5. Once the mussels are all open, serve them in bowls and tuck in! (As you are eating, remember to discard any mussels that remain closed once served.)

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