This dish has a lot of history. I created the recipe for my cookery school La Dolce Vita, which I ran from 1983-1986 because mussels this way represented the good life at the time. I think they still do (easy, cheap, good for you).They appeared in my very first cookbook, All This And More, published in 1986. Gosh, it’s a lifetime ago, but proves the point that great recipes live on!
2 kg (4-4.5 lb) mussels, cleaned 250ml (1 cup) dry white wine 1 bay leaf (sweetens the odour from the mussels!) 2 large tomatoes, skinned and finely diced 4-5 (a bunch) spring onions (scallions), trimmed and thinly sliced 1 tsp fresh chopped marjoram, or ½ tsp dried marjoram 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Put mussels in a sink of fresh water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Scrub with a stiff brush, then pull off the beards (the hairy bit). If the beards are hard to remove, do it once they are steamed. Transfer mussels to a bowl, clean the sink and fill with fresh water. Add mussels and agitate. Repeat process until water is grit-free.
2 Put mussels in a large saucepan with the wine and bay leaf. Cover with a lid and cook over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mussels open. Transfer to a bowl as they open. Reserve mussel liquor.
3 When the mussels are cool enough to handle, open them, discarding one shell of each, and remove any traces of beard or tiny crustaceans. Arrange them on a platter. Strain the mussel liquor through muslin or a coffee filter or paper towels and spoon a little on each mussel to keep them moist.
4 Drain off excess water from the chopped tomatoes and transfer to a small saucepan with spring onions, marjoram, oil and black pepper. Heat gently for 2-3 minutes, to draw out flavour, but don’t let the mixture fry or it will lose its bright colours. Mix in ¼ cup of the mussel liquor. Spoon dressing over mussels and serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley, or, for more flavour, cover and leave for 1 hour before serving.
Providing the mussels are fresh, they can be fully prepared, covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before serving. Bring to room temperature before serving.