Nick Cullen makes the most of mussels

There’s nothing better on a chilly day than a steaming bowl of mussels served with a chunk of good crusty bread and a pint of something cold. They’re definitely my kind of comfort food.

Mussels are in peak season for a few more weeks so make the most of this nutritious and incredibly tasty shellfish while you can.

Mussels are one of the most economical and sustainable types of shellfish and are at their most succulent at this time of year.

They also pack a pretty decent nutritional punch - high in vitamins, minerals and iron as well as being low in fat.

Although many supermarkets do sell fresh mussels, I’d encourage you to buy from your local fishmonger or take a trip to the fish market where you’ll probably find them to be much fresher and cheaper.

Ideally you should eat them the same day you buy them to ensure you’re eating them as fresh as possible.

When choosing mussels, avoid any with broken shells and make sure they are tightly closed.

If you can buy them already cleaned and de-bearded this will save you time but if not, it’s very simple to do. Don’t be afraid to ask your fishmonger for advice.

Mussels have a great meaty texture and robust flavour and, therefore, combine well with strong, bold ingredients.

Italian style mussels in a rich tomato sauce and moules marinière in a silky cream sauce are the most popular ways to prepare them, however, I like to experiment with other flavours.

These Greek inspired mussels are a real hit on the restaurant menu and taste fabulous.

The drizzle of Ouzo just before serving is the final flourish that really makes this dish something special.

Greek Mussels

(serves 2)

500g mussels

½ green pepper, diced

5 spring onions, sliced

1 small red onion, sliced

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp. capers

10 black olives

200ml white wine

25ml ouzo (optional)

250g feta cheese

A handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Olive oil

Black pepper

Wash and scrub the mussels in cold water to remove any beards and barnacles if necessary. Discard any that have broken, damaged or open shells.

Heat a little oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently cook the onions and peppers for a few minutes until softened.

Add the olives and capers then turn up the heat and add the mussels. Cover and steam for three to four minutes, by which time the shells should have opened. Remove any mussels that remain closed.

Crumble the feta into the pan along with half the coriander and pour in the white wine.

Toss everything together so the ingredients are well combined and the feta starts to melt, creating a creamy sauce.

Finish with the Ouzo* and a good twist of black pepper. Serve immediately with the remaining coriander sprinkled over the top and enjoy with a chunk of good crusty bread.

*Ouzo is flammable so take care when adding this to the pan.