Flex those mussels!
Today we’re going to talk about mussels; not the kind we grow in the gym, but the kind we find in the sea.
Mussels are a particularly versatile seafood and are used in cuisines all over the world. They’re a fantastic source of protein, omega 3 and low in saturated fat but are grown sustainably and also help filter immense amounts of water throughout the marine ecosystems where they grow. A triple threat if you will. They’re also relatively cheap to buy and can be used in so many different ways!
A couple of weeks ago, I was staying with a friend at his beach shack and went for a little snorkel right off the shore. Not only was there an abundance of marine life but what really caught my eye was the amount of huge black mussels, glistening in the shallow water, almost like a garden of gemstones. I plucked off a couple of handfuls and stuffed them into my dive bag. The water was pristine and had quite a heavy current running past, which is one of the guarantees that these mussels were going to be plump and good to eat!
“It’s easy to overcook a mussel and nobody wants to be chewing on little rubbery nuggets.”
If you’re harvesting your own wild mussels, always take into consideration the conditions of where they’re growing. You want plenty of water flow and of course never eat seafood from busy docks or rivers where there is a lot of boat activity, pollution or water run-off. Oh, and make sure you adhere to all of your local regulations regarding size and take-limits too.
There are a million and one ways to cook mussels, but one rule you need to adhere to is to cook them perfectly. It’s easy to overcook a mussel and nobody wants to be chewing on little rubbery nuggets. Generally, the rule of thumb is as soon as the shells start to open up, they’re good to go. Also, when people tell you not to eat mussels that don’t open, ignore them. As long as your mussels are fresh and cooked well, there’s nothing you need to worry about when encountering a tight shell. Simply pop it open with a butter knife and enjoy!
Here’s a super simple recipe that I whipped up after hopping out of the water with my bag of mussels.
• 1kg live mussels
• 1 bottle of beer (you can use white wine instead)
• 1 tomato
• 2 cloves garlic
• ½ onion
• Handful of parsley, chopped
• 2 lemons
• Loaf of sourdough
1. Mince your garlic, dice the onion, dice the tomato. Chuck your garlic, onion and tomato into a pan with some olive oil and get them searing!
2. Once everything is frying nicely, put in your mussels and give them a quick stir. Pour in half of your beer (roughly a cup) and pop the lid on. For every sip of beer, give your mussels a quick stir.
3. Slice up some sourdough and chuck the slices on the barbie to get a nice toasty char.
4. Once your mussels have opened up and the liquid at the bottom of the pot is reducing, throw in your parsley and give it one final stir. If you’re unsure of when your mussels are ready, you want 85-100% of your mussel shells opened up.
5. To serve, pluck your mussels, load up your piece of toast and give it a nice drizzle of the sauce at the bottom of the pot. A good squeeze of lemon is crucial too!
Columnist Harry Foster is a former Masterchef Australia contestant and NQ lad who each edition gives us a taste of his energetic approach to food.
Follow Harry’s foodie adventures on Instagram @hazfos