Food and Drink
Posted by Robert Clark
11. May, 2011
This summer’s unusually wet weather has had an adverse effect on some of the produce we are used to putting on our shopping lists. Banana prices have hit the roof, broccoli is not so plentiful, and the waterlogged soil and lack of hot sunny days has resulted in a poor season for tomatoes and other fruit.
One item that has relished the wet conditions is blue mussels. The run-off from recent heavy rains has dramatically increased water nutrition, causing a growth spurt in the phytoplankton on which mussels feed, resulting in a great crop right now.
Grown locally in Port Philip and Westernport bays, our Australian blue mussels are among the best in the world. Sweet and tender, they are one of the cheapest and most convenient forms of fresh seafood around. They are high in protein and minerals, low in calories and fat and contain heaps of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids.
Cultured mussels are grown on ropes suspended above the seabed and are cleaner than dredged mussels, which can contain more sand and grit, and are easier to prepare. As they prefer moving water, mussels have a stringy ‘beard’ which helps them avoid being washed from their mooring by rough seas. Preparation includes removing the beard and washing gently prior to cooking. As you tumble them into the sink you will notice they close up. Any that don’t close should be discarded as not being fresh.
Here’s easy, beautiful and rustic recipe you can use as a base for many applications. Serve the dish as is, with warm crusty bread for a healthy feast.
Moules mariniere (serves 4)
- 1.75kg blue mussels
- 1 finely chopped clove of garlic
- 2 finely chopped shallots
- A generous spoon of butter, or a slosh of olive oil
- a couple of bay leaves
- a sprig of parsley and thyme if you have them
- 100ml dry white wine
- 120ml cream
- Wash the mussels in cold water.
- Discard any that won’t close.
- Pull ‘beards’ that protruding from between the closed shells.
- Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell.
- Get a pot big enough so that the mussels will be no more than 2 layers thick when you cook them. You need a pot with a lid
- Sweat the garlic and shallots in the butter/oil with the herbs and a pinch of pepper (no salt!).
- Turn up the heat, add the mussels and wine, then cover with a tight lid and steam them in their own juices for 3-4 minutes, giving the pot a good shake to tumble them and distribute the steam.
- They should have mostly opened. Don’t cook them any longer or they will turn into rubber bullets.
- Add the cream, stir gently then remove the mussels to a bowl.
- Cook the liquid in the pot until it thickens to coat the back of a spoon, then pour over the mussels, discarding the herbs if you like.
Experiment by adding finely sliced leek or fennel with the garlic; or try with extra garlic, lots of fresh parsley, and some chunks of fresh fish poached in the sauce as a simple Spaghetti Marinara.
By the way, the pretty orange ones are the females, while the pale ones are the males.