This recipe is for vegetable paella but if you are at the seaside foraged mussels can make a great addition
Use your paella pan and your griddle pan if you decide to add the mussels
1 small red/yellow pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
1 slim dried chilli or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
half a head of garlic peeled and crush
1 medium carrot roughly diced
1 courgette roughly diced
1 medium onion roughly chopped
150g tomatoes, chopped
125g mushrooms, sliced
75g green French beans, trimmed and cut into short lengths
75g frozen peas
1 tin butter beans
300g Spanish paella rice or Italian risotto rice
pinch saffron threads
fresh rosemary and thyme
vegetable stock or water
Salt & pepper
Light your fire in the firepit.
Sauté the sweet pepper, chilli and garlic in the oil in your paella pan. Then add the carrots, courgettes, onion, tomatoes and
mushrooms. Simmer until most of their liquid has gone. Add the rice and stir for 4-5 minutes until the grains are opaque. Stir in the saffron and herbs. Cover with stock adding water if necessary to about double the ingredients’ volume. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to simmer and cook without stirring for about 10 minutes then add the peas and the beans. Cook for
a further 10 minutes until the broth is absorbed and the grains are tender. If you would like to add the mussels, cover the paella pan with a sheet of foil. Heat your grill pan, then spread the prepared mussels on the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until they open. Tip onto the cooked paella and serve.
Collecting mussels in the wild.
When to collect mussels
Only collect mussels when there is an ‘r’ in the month (ie not in May, June, July or August). This is good for the mussels – as it gives them a chance to breed in the warmer months - and for you, because there are less likely to be bacteria present in cooler waters.
Don’t collect mussels after rainfall, as rain can leach toxins from the ground and cause them to run into the sea. Because mussels are filter feeders, it’s possible that they can absorb these toxins.
If you’re pregnant, avoid eating mussels – as with all other shellfish.
Where to collect mussels
Always harvest mussels from a clean beach, where you know that there is no sewage outlet into the sea. Filter-feeding mussels risk absorbing this.
Which mussels to collect
It’s best to go for larger mussels, which have most likely already had a chance to breed. That’s how to ensure the population is sustainable. But don’t go for massive mussels, as a smaller morsel of meat can sometimes be much tastier. Mussels high up on the rocks tend to be less gritty than those lower down.
How to prepare mussels
Scrub off any barnacles, and pull off their ‘beards’ (byssus threads) and rinse them well. Any that are open when collected, discard. And of course, once they’re cooked, discard any that are closed.
If you do want to purge them, however, to get out grit and sand, place the mussels in a bowl of salted cold water overnight, and they will ‘filter’ themselves clean.