Preheat oven to 160C. Place mussels in a saucepan with 100ml water, cover with a lid and cook over high heat, shaking pan occasionally, until mussels just open (3-4 minutes). When cool enough to handle, remove mussels from shells and set aside (keep 6 mussels in their shells, discard remaining shells). Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve and reserve.
Arrange one-third of the potato in an even layer in an 8-litre paella pan or wide baking dish. Scatter over half the cherry tomatoes, half the onion and half the mussels, then scatter one-third of the cheese and half the rice evenly on top. Drizzle over half the oil and season liberally to taste. Repeat process, then scatter over mussels in shells and place remaining potato on top, allowing mussels to show. Scatter over remaining parmesan and bake for 5 minutes, then add mussel liquid and 1.5 litres hot water (or enough to cover by 1cm). Increase oven to 180C and bake until rice and potato are tender, liquid is absorbed and tiella is golden (45 minutes-1 hour). Serve hot scattered with parsley.
This recipe is from the May 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
“This dish is called tiella or taieddha or teglia, depending on where you are in Puglia and what dialect is being spoken, and is named after the baking dish it’s served in. Several ingredients, which may include rice and will almost always include potatoes, are carefully layered. Another element will be a vegetable, such as artichokes, zucchini or mushrooms, depending on the season, and the final ingredient is sometimes salt cod or more usually mussels. Some suggest that this is a Pugliese version of paella, derived from the Spanish in the centuries when they occupied Puglia along with much of the Italian south. Spell and call it what you will and put in it what you will (as long as you include potatoes) – this is a dish that is confidently and unashamedly Pugliese.”