Cultivated blue mussels farmed in Saldanha, still a green listed species and under review from SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative). It will be a big blow to our menu’s if mussels get moved to the orange list. Last year we saw how our beloved crayfish was moved from the green to orange list, this did not go down well. I had to break some promises made to SASSI and serve crayfish to some of our regulars, how do you explain this to guests. Soon we will have only the sand and an empty ocean. Thank goodness we still have stability with mussel supply. They might a little time consuming to clean, but so worth it. I have three conditions for eating mussels, must have good bread, must have a good wine and must make a mess. Best sharing with friends, we see this every time we put a pot in the middle of our chefs table you can see how the mood changes and the noise levels increase.
My favourite mussels ever eaten was lunch at LQF served in a light tomato broth and then the surreal moment was in Bruges, Belgium. I just remember how a huge pot full of mussels was dumped in front of me with no cutlery and the rest was a little bit of a blur. NOTE eating and buying half shell mussels does not count as an experience!
Yield: 4 pax
Ensure that mussels are tightly closed an undamaged. Fresh mussels smell like the sea and feel heavy for their size. In the recipe below I have 2 slight variations with or with out cream.
2 kg Mussels
400ml white wine
60g Diced celery and fennel (optional)
6 cloves garlic crushed
4 sprigs thyme picked
2 bay leaf
1 small onion chopped
3 tbsp butter
15 ml olive oil
½ bunch chopped flat leaf parsley
1 -2 tbsp lemon juice to taste
Lemon zest to taste
3 spring onion sliced
Fresh ground black pepper
Sliced fresh crusty bread
To clean mussels remove the beard, rip towards the hinge end of the mussel. Discard beard and with a brush remove additional sand and barnacles, rinse under running water.
Heat large sauce pan with a wide base add butter, oil, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, zest and pepper. Cook gently for 2 minutes with out giving colour. Add wine and bring to a rapid boil add mussels and salt stir to combine, cover and allow to steam allowing all the mussels to open, this should take about 2- 4 minutes. Add parsley and spring onion and a squeeze of lemon juice. Don’t over cook mussels as they become tough and grainy.
Serve with lots of crusty bread or some french fries
After the the juices have been separated from the mussels add 250 ml cream to liquid bring to a simmer reduce for about two minutes, if you like your sauce a little thicker reduce further, place mussels back into sauce, heat through and finish with parsley and serve with bread.