This recipe was born of necessity – after a week cut off from the mainland on a tiny Scottish island, the fridge was looking pretty bare – but was scrumptious nonetheless. Feel free to substitute garlic or onion for the leeks, chorizo for the bacon and white wine or stock for the beer. Precise quantities are not important here, but a hunk of good bread to soak up the juice is pretty much non-negotiable.
Heat the oil and/or butter gently, in as big a pan as you can muster (we had to cook ours in batches). Add the chopped bacon and leeks, and leave to soften so that the fat renders out of the rashers.
Throw in the cleaned mussels, well drained, and add the beer. You don’t need to cover the mussels or even come halfway up the side – but you do need enough liquid to generate a decent amount of steam (and, of course, a decent amount of juice to do justice to that bread).
Clamp on the lid and leave to bubble and steam until the mussels are open – and discard any that remain closed. Serve in deep bowls, with a good ladleful of the cooking juices poured over.
By Louise Bell