MacGregor’s Mussels in Chunky Tomato Sauce from A Taste of the Highlands

  17 May '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Want to get creative in the kitchen this week? Try this recipe from Ghillie Basan’s acclaimed cookbook, A Taste of the Highlands!


History and storytelling are at the heart of MacGregor’s Bar in Inverness, through song and music, hospitality and food. There are pianos, spare accordions and fiddles available around the bar for any musician popping in for a tune; live music is on tap seven nights a week. The Sunday Sessions have become legendary as they often feature some of Scotland’s most talented musicians. Owner Bruce MacGregor is one of Scotland’s finest fiddlers. He has toured the world with his band, Blazin’ Fiddles, and presents the lively music show Travelling Folk on BBC Radio Scotland.

MacGregor’s Bar only came into being through a crowd-funding campaign. Over 140 investors got involved to transform a run-down corner of Academy Street into a welcoming venue with a beer garden. If you go down to the basement, you will find yourself in the vaults where the Highland Malt Whisky Experience takes place – an evening of whisky tasting, history, music and song. In essence, MacGre- gor’s Bar is what a traditional Highland bar should be – a gathering place offering a unique blend of freestyle jamming, eating and drinking.

This bowl of garlicky tomato mussels is perfect with a Highland dram, such as sweet, citrus Old Pulteney with its maritime notes or rich, oily Springbank, or perhaps with a pint of hoppy craft beer from the Cromarty Brewing Company. The locals swear by it!


  • 1–2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 12 beef tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped (reserve a little for garnishing)
  • 1–2 tsp sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1kg fresh west coast or Shetland mussels, with barnacles and beards removed


Heat the oil in a heavy-based pot and stir in the onions for 3–4 minutes, until they soften. Add the garlic, tomatoes, white wine, parsley and sugar, and cook over a medium heat for 40 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pulpy. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the mussels, cover with the lid and cook for 2 minutes, until they have opened – discard any that haven’t. Spoon the mussels into bowls, garnish with the reserved parsley.

For more recipes like these, check out A Taste of the Highlands!

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