Sweet and Sour Chilli Mussels

Mitch Tonks runs RockFish Grill & Seafood Market in Clifton, Bristol. He is an award-winning chef, restaurateur and food writer and has two other seafood restaurants in Dartmouth.

Here’s the Catch

With sustainable fishing top on the agenda, each month new flavour columnist and seafood specialist Mitch Tonks cooks up a storm with his seasonal fish of choice…


So winter, recession, time to tighten your belts in more ways than one? But if cooking with a budget in mind means heading straight for the lentils and tins of beans, think again. One thing is for sure; most people tend not to think of fish as food to cook on the cheap, unless it comes in frozen finger form. But there really are some great ways to include terrific fish that won’t break the bank and make a pretty impressive supper in the process. Some of my absolute favourites are the least expensive dishes and probably top of the list is seafood spaghetti. Spaghetti, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, mussels, clams and whatever else takes your fancy from the fish counter thrown in, piled high and unceremoniously plonked in the middle of the table for a group of friends to share – sumptuous.

Most of our fish at RockFish is caught down in Brixham in Devon and then transported up overnight to be on the counter the next day hence our saying that our fish is so fresh “tomorrow’s is still in the sea!” While some fish is at a premium and a higher price, such as turbot and lobster, there are plenty of species caught in the South Coast waters that make a fantastic and cheap supper. Bang in season is the humble mussel and at this time of year it’s hard to beat a piece of really good smoked haddock. Here are two great recipes for around a fiver – not bad for some top-quality seafood.

I’m always telling people to come in and chat to us. Our fishmongers are chefs and they have loads of ideas about what is good, what works with what and some new simple ideas to try. We can help you with what is on the counter and is best for the budget on any particular day!

Hope to see you soon.

Sweet And Sour Chilli Mussels

It’s hard to beat moules marinère but this is one of those dishes that everyone wants to know how to cook after they’ve tried it.

Serves 2


  • 1kg live mussels
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped, fresh ginger
  • 4 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 150ml white wine vinegar
  • 6 tbsp sugar Splash of fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • A small handful of chopped basil

Clean the mussels and then steam them open in a pan with a little water. Discard any that don’t open. In a frying pan, gently soften the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. Add the vinegar and sugar and stir well to dissolve. Taste to get that sweet and sour balance that you like and then season with a few drops of fish sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Tip the mussels and their juices into the frying pan and stir well to create a sticky coating over the mussels. Squeeze in the lime juice and add the herbs. Serve hot or chilled.

Cullen Skink

Well its name just gets everyone talking, a traditional warming and filling soup – don’t bank on leftovers.

Serves 3-4

  • 450g good quality undyed smoked haddock
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Small handful of chopped parsley leaves (reserve the stalks)
  • 750ml full cream milk
  • 200g creamy mashed potato
  • 50g butter
  • Bay leaf
  • Salt and plenty of black pepper

Put the milk in a pan large enough to take the haddock. Add the bay leaf and parsley stalks and simmer for 4 minutes then leave to infuse for a further 5 minutes. When cool enough remove the haddock, reserving the liquid, and break up into flakes and remove any skin and bone.

Melt the butter in another pan and cook the onions until soft but not browned. Add the strained poaching liquid and then stir in enough mashed potato until you have a thickened, creamy consistency. Add the parsley and the haddock and simmer for a further 3-4 minutes. Season with plenty of black pepper and salt if needed and serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

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