April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized
The one nice thing about having a bloke in your life is that you have a mate with whom you can dive, snorkel and scavenge for food. And I’m afraid a foraging girlfriend just won’t do to find certain foods … well, unless she drives a ten ton lorrie and knits Harley Davidsons for a hobby. It’s just that certain foods lurk in dangerous grounds so a big hefty bloke may just come in handy …
Not that I want to be rude or racist or anything, but I had this cast-in-the-dye Irish boyfriend and I don’t know if it was his nature or if he was nurtured like that, but he could make the Scots go bankrupt in Ireland, he was so mean. I always smile when I read Sous Chef’s reference to her Himself as I get the notion that he Himself may be a little tight with the zipper on that purse.
Anyway, this Irishman of mine was a forager for food of note. I mean, if he didn’t he’d have to pay for food, didn’t he now? And I can sort-of cook not too badly, so we had a culinary marriage made in heaven. So we’d regularly, almost every weekend in the summer really, rent cheap and cheerful cabins and cottages around the Western Cape coastal villages and then he’d forage a lot. And I’d help. A little. And then I’d cook a lot and he’d help a little. And eventually it ended but my innate scavenger still lurks around and when I can, I am off to get what I can lay my hands on. Lately, on safe waters. Diving for arikreukel (sort-of giant periwinkle) is no longer an option for me. I’ve become too soft and too large.
The season for foraging seafood ends in a week. So, as a trip down memory lane, here I share my best, best kind of foraged food: mussels. It’s a buttery, winy, briny delight with probably far more butter than healthy but what the heck, in a week’s time you’d have to wait until October to get your hands on some more of these babies.
Buttery mussels in wine
Rich, decadent, simple, peasant food all in one and what a mouthful! In South Africa we have the mussel season from October to end April.
- 1 kg live mussels (about 40 mature ones)
- 125 ml salted butter, cut into pieces
- 125 ml finely chopped shallots (from Woollies)
- 20 ml finely chopped garlic
- 250 ml dry white wine
- generous pinch sea salt
- 80 ml mixture of chopped Italian parsley, chervil and chives
Soak the mussels for at least an hour in a bucket of fresh cold water to which you’ve added a cup of oats or maize meal so that they can spit out their dirt. Drain, rinse well and discard the ones that are open; they are dead. Now remove the mussel beards and scrape off any sandy and stony bits from the shells. Rinse well and drain.
Melt a good knob of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and add the shallots. Cook until soft but not browned. Add the garlic and stir briefly then add the wine. Bring to a boil then add the mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels have just opened, about 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times.
Drain but reserve the stock. Return the stock to the pan and cook rapidly for a few minutes until reduced a bit to your liking. Then start to add the butter, a few pieces at a time, stirring. When all the butter is in and melted, add the herbs and return the mussels to the pan. Cover and give the pan a good shake and transfer your buttery, briny, winy mussels to a large serving bowl. Discard the ones that did not open.
Serve immediately, passing around a basket of crusty bread, more butter, more wine and a few small baskets or bowls for the shells. And offer small, damp hand towels kept just for this purpose: to eat with your hands.
Chef’s hint: This is a most economical dish if you picked the mussels yourself. Just remember the season, to pick nice large ones, your daily limit and your licence.
For delicious, easy family reicpes, visit I love cooking.
Have yourself a good weekend!