Mussel Training – Crema di Cavolfiore, Cozze e Panissa

Italian recipes often include a grading of their difficulty. This is something that is slightly distracting to my somewhat competitive nature. As a result, I have already been toying with the idea of testing a cake with the grade “for experts”. With my limited baking skills, it is a terrible idea – especially considering my latest kitchen disaster last weekend (I may tell you all about it later…).

However, as most of the recipes on this blog to-date have been graded “easy”, I thought it would anyway be time to raise the bar, and go for a medium level dish. It is a soup from the “La Cucina Italiana” magazine that I bought some weeks ago.

I still ended up taking a few shortcuts as I made this soup on an ordinary Tuesday evening: According to the recipe, you are also supposed to cook your chickpea flour in boiling water for 40 minutes. My mixture obtained the desired porridge like consistency within about 40 seconds. There was also no mention on the package of chickpea flour being lethal if you cook it for less than 40 minutes (I hadn’t used chickpea flour before). Hence I presumed that 40 minutes was in fact a typo for 4 minutes.

In addition, I didn’t use fresh or even frozen mussels but smoked ones from a can. The smoky flavour worked ok although I’m sure the soup would have been even more delicious with the fresh mussels as instructed. I haven’t prepared fresh mussels before myself so that could be the next project in my personal kitchen training (certainly much rather than that cake per esperti…). However, I do know that you have to be careful when cooking fresh mussels, so please bear in mind that: “Mussels should be alive when you cook them. Consuming mussels that have perished before cooking can cause food poisoning.”

Even with the few shortcuts, the result was quite nice and certainly worth the little extra effort. I particularly liked the nice touch of the fried chickpea flour which also gives a bit extra protein for your muscles in addition to those mussels!

Cauliflower soup with mussels and fried chickpea cubes

Serves 4

800 g cauliflower

500 g fresh mussels or canned/ frozen mussels

250 g spring onions

170 g potatoes

50 g chickpea flour

1 garlic clove

1 chilli

2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley

1 fennel

olive oil

salt, white pepper

Bring 200 g of lightly salted water to a boil. Remove the kettle from the heat and stir in the chickpea flour. Return the kettle to the stove and cook for a few minutes continuously stirring until you have a “porridge” type of mixture. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover it and place it into a fridge.

Peel the potatoes and slice them. Clean the cauliflower and cut it into small chunks.

Clean the onions and peel them. Put the onion peels into a kettle with 2 litres of lightly salted boiling water and cook for some minutes. This way you will obtain a light broth for your soup.

Chop the onions and gently fry them in a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil but do not let them brown. Add the cauliflower and potatoes, salt and white pepper and let them gain flavour for 3-4 minutes. Pour the vegetable mix into the kettle with the broth and let them cook for 25-30 minutes.

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The shortcut:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the crushed garlic clove, the chopped chilli, the sliced fennels and the chopped parsley and fry them for a few minutes. Stir the smoked or frozen mussels into the mixture and heat them.

The recipe with fresh mussels:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the crushed garlic clove, the chilli (entire or chopped) and the parsley. Add the well-cleaned and –washed mussels (here is another BBC clip on how to do that). Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 3 minutes until the mussels have opened. Again – please discard the mussels that haven’t opened!

Let the open mussels cool. Take the mussel meat from the shells and filter the cooking liquid. Return the cooking liquid into the pan and cook it for 3 minutes with a little bit of olive oil and sliced fennel. Add the shelled mussels and reheat them.

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Pour some of the cooking liquid of the vegetables into a bowl. Blend the soup. Add some of the cooking liquid if needed to achieve the right consistency for the soup.

Remove the chickpea flour “porridge” from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Fry the cubes in olive oil and drain them on a kitchen towel.

Serve the soup with the mussels and their sauce and the fried chickpea flour cubes.

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