This recipe was inspired by one of the courses I had at Rich Table restaurant in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago.
I loved the informal vibe of this restaurant with its light airy feel and exposed kitchen. The food was fantastic too.
We started with amazing porcini doughnuts with a warm mousse-like raclette dipping sauce. They were comforting, beautifully textured and full of umami wonder.
The intense porcini powder that dusted each doughnut combined with the dipping cheese was completely addictive and weirdly similar to the intensity of niknak seasoning! Their texture was so soft and light, yet simultaneously bouncy and firm; a crunchy exterior like a choux bun with an interior that was more akin to a doughnut. It's worth going to the restaurant just for these! (I've since bought their recipe book and delighted to see the doughnuts in there!)
Their salmon tataki was a flavour explosion; fermented black beans with ginger, salmon, sweetcorn purée and crispy tempura crumbs. It had everything you could possible want on a plate.
And then the pasta course, the inspiration for this recipe, an incredible dish of mussels, pasta and fennel. The sauce was an intense essence of fennel and mussels, with fennel flowers and pimentón croutons dotted on top. It was intensely mussely, fennely and made deep green with an additional oil that I think we either parsley or chive. Rarely does pasta leave me speechless, but this did just that.
And here is my interpretation.
Lumache with mussels fennel and dill
- 25g butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 head fennel, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1.25kg mussels, scrubbed
- 75ml white wine
- 3 tbsp mascarpone
- 200g lumache pasta
- A handful of fresh dill, thick stalks removed
- 100ml light olive oil
- 1 slice of sourdough bread, cut into cubes
- 1/4 tsp mild smoked paprika
Gently cook the fennel and fennel seed in the butter and olive oil for 20 mins, with the lid on, until the fennel is extremely soft.
Meanwhile add the mussels to a large pot and cook on a high heat with a splash of water, lid on, for about 5 minutes until just opened.
Drain the mussels, keeping the liquid and pick all the cooked mussels from their shells. Keep to one side or refrigerate.
Strain the mussel cooking liquid through a j-cloth to remove any grit or sand.
Add the mussel liquor to the softened fennel and add the white wine. Cook, simmering gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and push through a sieve, extracting as much of the liquid as you can, pushing with the back of a wooden spoon. Discard the solids.
Pour the strained mix back into the saucepan and reduce to 100ml.
Make the dill oil. Drop your picked dill into boiling water for about 20 seconds. Drain and plunge into ice cold water. Drain and dry well with kitchen towel or j cloth.
Using a stick blender or liquidiser, blend the light olive oil with the dill. If you wish, you can pour this oil into a j cloth set over a sieve and a bowl in order to catch a clear green oil but this will needing leaving for several hours or overnight to all drip through. I tend not to bother and quite like using it as it is. Either which way, season the oil with a little salt.
Make the paprika croutons. Heat a little oil in a small frying pan. Drop in the cubes of bread and fry gently until crisp. Toss the paprika through along with a little salt.
Cook your lumache as per the packet (unless you've made it yourself 😉 ).
Warm the reduced mussel and fennel stock in a pan and add the mascarpone, allowing it to melt. Stir through the mussels and keep warm.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and mix into the mussels and sauce. Pour into bowls and top with the paprika croutons and a few drizzles of fennel oil.