Friday, May 03, 2013

mussel in

I feel lucky to have married a fisherman who regularly comes home with dinner fresh from the sea. Last night the veggie patties in the fridge were put on hold when Pete arrived home with mussels and squid. Enough to share with neighbours and friends. Pete wanted me to tell you that he had been waiting for a day like yesterday to get some mussels, "the bay was like glass, the sky was without a cloud and there wasn't a seal in sight". Apparently the mussels live in an area that is usually a playground for seals. Lucky for us they weren't around yesterday.

Robin called in on the way home from school pick up and left with some of the catch, she shared with us the way her mum cooked mussels. Measurements were not part of the recipe that Robin outlined, it was more a short list of simple ingredients brought together with a whole lot of feeling. We waved Robin goodbye and I headed out to buy the ingredient missing from our pantry - white wine.

Home again and continuing on with teaching River and Sol to cook more than cake, I called them into the kitchen to learn how to cook mussels with spaghetti. Yes it is messier and takes longer cooking with children but hey that's parenting, one endless lesson in patience. Back to the mussels. Pete had taken to the shells with a scrubbing brush so they were shining and clean ready for the boys and I to create dinner.

River chopped flat leaf parsley with scissors while Sol attempted to crush garlic before he decided that the scissors looked like more fun, so they swapped jobs while I got a pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti.

Parsley chopped and garlic crushed, Sol moved on to scissoring his way through lengths of spring onion and River tackled zesting a lemon. I chopped a brown onion figuring I would save all of us the pain of onion vapour in their eyes. Then with mise en place complete (fancy French way of saying ingredients and kitchen equipment ready to go) I sent them off to set the table while the spaghetti made its way to al dente (Italian way of saying not soggy) in the bubbling water.

Once the pasta was cooked, it was on to cooking the mussels.

Our version of Robin's mum's mussel pasta recipe

30 grams butter
6 cloves of garlic
1 onion (I used a medium brown onion. Robin's mum uses a red onion or shallotts)
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
4 stems of thyme
1.5 teaspoons lemon zest
mussels (quantity depends on the catch but let's say this is around 1kg)
1 cup white wine
1 tin tomatoes

(If you want to eat the mussels with spaghetti, cook the pasta just before beginning cooking the mussels. Drain the spaghetti in a colander and place a lid on top to keep it warm)

In a large heavy based pot with a lid, melt butter over medium heat and saute onion and garlic til onion is soft.

Add in wine, tomatoes, thyme and mussels, turn heat up to high and place lid on. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer until mussel shells open (about 6-8 minutes), discard any that don't open.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parsley and lemon zest.

(If you want to reduce the liquid you can remove the mussels once they open and turn the heat up to reduce the 'soup')

To serve put the spaghetti in bowls, place mussels on top and then pour the mussel soup over the top of the spaghetti.

We used a delicious Italian gluten free pasta that I hadn't tried before, it held its shape like wheat pasta a shame about the carbon footprint though coming all the way from Italy!

You can skip the pasta and just enjoy them as a mussel soup served with your favorite bread to mop up the juice.

A bonus recipe

I have another recipe here for cooking mussels from an anonymous friend :) anonymous to you but not to me. I am urging her to write a blog but she tells me she is shy. Shy is the last word that those who know and love her would use to describe her. I've had her recipe tucked away for over a year to share with you finally here it is.

My friend says, "This recipe changes every time I make it. I tend to cook by taste and smell, so don't really have specific measurements…although the garlic is about right.  The more of that the better!  Also the mussels are usually caught fresh and no idea of weight, so as many or few as you like to add to the brew really!"

1.5-2kg fresh mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
2 tins tomatoes or equivalent in brewed down freshies from the garden
1 cup or more of fish stock
½ cup water
a glug (maybe ¼ cup??!) of White wine (always chose good white wine for cooking…if you wouldn't drink it by the glass, then don't use it in cooking!!)
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1-2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Splodge of fish sauce (optional)
Splash of olive oil
Large saucepan with a lid

To cook: 
heat olive oil in the saucepan and saute garlic and onion.  Add tomatoes, stock, water, wine, fish sauce and let it come to the boil and then drop heat to let it simmer…preferably for up to an hour.  Around 10 minutes before ready to serve, include the parsley in the brew.  Once parsley settled in, bring back to the boil and toss mussels in and put lid on!  It will take no more than 2 minutes for the mussels to be cooked, but keep checking and when the majority are open, it's time to serve.  Ladle some soup and mussels in shells into bowls and serve…preferably with crusty bread to dip :-)

Thank you friends xx

(sorry the photo is less than fantastic. I think I have to rig up some lighting specifically for taking shots at dinnertime... and as much as I love my trusty Canon point and shoot camera I have started research to upgrade, both for your benefit and mine ;)


  1. Mmm ... I love mussels, will be definitely be trying out Robin's mums recipe first, it was the butter that swayed me towards it!

    And you're right about parenting, an endless lesson in patience. I adore hearing about you involving River and Sol in the kitchen, it's encouraging me to try and involve Oscar more.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Imogen. My plan is to continue involving River and Sol in the kitchen, I highly recommend it. As I said it does take a bit longer and requires patience but it is extremely valuable on many levels. The mussel recipe is just delicious, the butter gives it richness and depth and the lemon zest is the perfect finishing touch. Enjoy! x

  3. Susan Koster (Robin's Mum)11 May 2013 at 11:13

    :) .... Robin's Mum doesn't remember adding a tin of tomatoes, but she never does it the same way twice. Today, I would grind some fresh pepper and top with a diced, peeled fresh tomato

  4. Thanks Robin's mum :) I seem to remember now that Robin said the tomatoes were optional...we were talking recipes at the front gate with children running about...fresh tomato is of course preferable over tinned! Lovely to read your comment x

  5. Mussels are one of my favorites! Lovely photos!


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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