Gaz Smith really loves his mussels. Here, he shares one of his favourite recipes using the versatile ingredient

When I think of one of my favourite ingredients, I keep coming back to mussels. They are so versatile, easy to work with and full of protein, plus they are consistently good throughout the year. The days of foraging for them myself and scraping off barnacles and all that jazz are long gone; now you’ll find great mussels in all good fishmongers and supermarkets. I cook them with whatever I have in the fridge and knock them up into a fast, hearty dinner quicker than you can order a takeaway. I love them done simply with garlic, butter and shallots served with crusty bread, or spice them up with some curry paste, ginger, coconut milk and a squeeze of lime. They work well as either starters or mains. At Michael’s and Little Mike’s, our customers are mad for Hake and Mussels in Garlic and Lemon Butter.

Hake and mussels in garlic and lemon butter

Chef’s tip – be sure to wash the mussels really well and before you cook them, check that they’re all firmly closed or that they close up when you tap them. If you’re in any doubt, chuck it.

Serves 2

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 x 200g hake fillets, deboned and skin on

Plain flour for dusting

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g mussels, debearded, cleaned and well rinsed (see chef’s tip)

½ medium leek, thinly sliced

4 big tablespoons garlic and lemon butter (see recipe below)

8-9 capers

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A big pinch of fresh flat-leaf parsley

To serve

60:40 mash

Steamed tender stem broccoli

Heat up your oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.

While that’s heating up, dry the hake really well with kitchen paper and dip the skin in the tiniest dusting of flour. Give it a good season with salt and pepper.

Add the hake to the pan, skin side down, positioning the fish away from you so you don’t get splashed with the hot oil. Once the skin has fully touched the pan, don’t move it. You want to leave it there, without fiddle or arsing around for 4 minutes. That way, you get a nice crisp skin.

Seriously, I said don’t touch it.

If your fish is fresh, you should see it start to turn white on the edges. When the white section is about halfway up the fillet, you can turn it over and cook the other side. Flip it over neatly with a spatula. Again, don’t do it too quickly and once it’s in the pan, DON’T TOUCH IT.

Cook the fillets, flesh side down, for 2–3 more minutes. Take them out to rest.

In the same pan, chuck in the mussels, leek and butter, then add the capers, Dijon and parsley into the mix. Give it all a good shake around and pop a lid on. Cook for 2-3 minutes while your hake is resting. Discard any unopened mussels.

Pop it all on a plate, making sure you give your hake a lovely little bath with the buttery juices from the pan.

Serve with 60:40 mash and steamed tender stem broccoli.

Garlic and lemon butter

Gaz says: This is very simple, but we get through an absolute ton of it in the restaurants and with good reason. Everything is better once you’ve got this butter on the plate, whether it’s a thick hunk of lobster or a pile of golden chips.

We use the juice and zest of a lemon (so you get all those fragrant oils), fresh garlic and the best salted butter. Unsalted butter has no place on this planet. Our handy little trick? Whipping the butter, which makes it brown and foam better in the pan.

Once it’s done, you can keep it in the fridge for an age, then use it however your perverted little heart desires. Just send me pics afterwards.

1 x 454g block of butter, softened

3 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped or grated

Zest and juice of 1 big lemon

Get your butter nice and soft.

Um … mix all together.

That’s it.

Gaz Smith is owner of Michael’s Mount Merrion and Little Mike’s and has recently expanded into Higgins Family Butcher in Sutton with Michael’s Sutton. With Rick Higgins, he is also author of And For Mains, available now in store at Michael’s Mount Merrion, Little Mike’s and Higgins Family Butcher, Sutton