In summer months, nothing beats a chilled soup to kick off a meal. Charring the red peppers for this gazpacho adds a rewarding smoky note, texture and smooth vibrant colour that couldn't be achieved with tomatoes alone.
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course
Preparing the mussels
To scrub and debeard your mussels, start by discarding any with cracked shells or any that are open and don't close when you tap them. Fill your sink with cold water and rinse the mussels. Sort through them, pulling the beard (the bristly bit between the two shells) out with your fingers and discarding it. Use a vegetable brush or clean scourer to scrub the outside of the shells.
For the gazpacho
4 red peppers
300g really ripe, best-quality tomatoes
Â½tbs sherry vinegar, or to taste
2tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for swirling
1 garlic clove, peeled
150ml water (or more for the desired consistency)
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the mussels
About 150ml white wine or water
650g mussels, debearded and scrubbed
1tbs red wine vinegar
Â¼tsp caster sugar
Â¼ red onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2tbs capers, drained, and rinsed if salted
A few small coriander leaves
A squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat the grill to medium-hot. Grill the red peppers on a baking tray, turning them with tongs, until the skin blackens all over. This will take around 15-20 minutes in total.
Transfer the peppers to a plastic bag and tie it shut. Leave for 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the peppers, peel off the skin and discard the seeds too. Place the flesh in a blender with all the other gazpacho ingredients, and blend for five minutes or until extremely smooth. Season to taste then transfer to a covered container and chill for at least an hour.
Next, pour a 1cm depth of water or white wine into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over a very high heat. Add the mussels, pop the lid on and give the pan a really good shake. Leave on the heat for three minutes, then give the mussels a stir. If they aren't quite open, pop the lid back on and give them another minute. Drain through a colander. When cool enough to handle, scoop all the mussels out from their shells and place in a bowl. Discard any that haven't opened. Save half the shells and rinse them clean.
Arrange the mussel shells on a platter or individual plates and put the mussels back into them. You can serve them on a bed of coarse salt to make them stand up if they are wobbling around.
Put the red wine vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt into a small cup or glass and stir to dissolve, then mix in the red onion. Drizzle over the mussels, then dot them with the capers and coriander leaves, and add a good squeeze of lemon juice. Ladle the chilled soup into bowls and add a swirl of olive oil. Spoon up the soup with the mussel scoopers, getting a mouthful of everything all at once.
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