Growing up, seafood was never a staple. When we did it have it, it often came in the form of fish fingers or fish n chips. I still gobbled it up. My palette by no means discerning at age 12. As I got older, mum’s cooking style became healthier, and she would happily grill fresh fish fillets, but squid, octopus, prawns and definitely mussels never entered her repertoire.
I still remember the first time I ate mussels. Juls pulled the dish together without a second thought. Bec joined us for dinner and it ended up the kind of feast that, in her words makes you ‘fat and happy!’ Unbelievably, the second time was even better. Fresh harvested muscles from the Able Tasman National Park in New Zealand, stewed on a camp fire and inhaled 3 feet from the sparkling clear blue waters.
Safety. Mussels are part of the Mollusk family which includes clams, oysters & scallops. Mollusks should never be eaten raw! They live by filtering 50-75 liters of water daily and if that water is polluted, they will concentrate those toxins.* That could equal an ugly couple of days for you. It’s important to select mussels which are firmly closed. If the shell is open, even slightly, the mussel is dead, decomposing and poisonous. Another potential ugly day. Always ask your fishmonger where they’re from and how fresh they are.
The healthy bits… Mussels are an excellent source of B12 and selenium; a trace mineral needed for good thyroid function, it plays a role in activating and deactivating thyroid hormones. Mussels prepared with fish stock, will have your thyroid singing a merry tune. Mussels also contain good levels of iron, B1, B2, B3, folate, zinc, phosphorus and Vitamin C. * *
1. Rinse mussels under water until clear of any juices from packaging. Soak in a sink of water for 30 minutes to 1 hour to remove excess salt from the shells. If you don’t do this there is a high chance your dish will be sent back to the kitchen.
2. Place a pairing knife just under the ‘beard’, place your thumb on top of the ‘beard’ and then pull the ‘beard’ from the mussel.
3. Next clean the shells by scrapping off any algae or dirt with a knife. What you leave on will end up in your dish. Your call.
Serves 4 as an entree
60grams of butter or 2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Large bunch of herbs – any combination of parsley, chives,
sage, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, basil or oregano
200ml dry white wine
200ml fish stock – try this one
1 kilo of mussels
If you haven’t read the full post – first scroll up and read the notes on preparing mussels. This is a quick dish to prepare, so have everything ready to go. Over cooked muscles are tough and frankly, plain inedible.
1. In a large pot melt the butter/oil on high heat. Add onion, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper. Cook till onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir regularly.
2. Add the mussels and stir for 10 seconds. Add the white wine & stock and cook covered for 2 minutes. The mussels are ready when they have all opened.
3. Serve in a bowl with plenty of the sauce.
If you like it a little richer, cook with butter and pour a little cream over each bowl when serving.
In place of white wine, try beer or a nice cider. Each will give you a slightly different flavour.
A dish devoured.