The great mussel and clam cookbook, 128pp.
by various contributors
New Holland, Publishers, Sydney, 2002
Cooking on pages 32–33
Seafood was an uncommon ingredient in meals when I was growing up. It was the 1950s and transporting fresh seafood to Nebraska—smack in the middle of the USA—was a challenge. Of course, there were frozen options, but I can only recall my mother and grandmother cooking with fish fingers, tinned tuna and the fresh fish my grandfather caught in a lake during summers.
My first encounter with grilled fresh prawns was on the beach in Alexandria, Egypt. The prawns were gigantic and delicious. Near our table, a local fellow with stainless steel teeth played the bagpipes. How could I forget that?
My first memory of eating mussels was in Belgium in the 1970s, and the best I’ve ever eaten were on the mussel platter for two at The Mussel Pot restaurant in Havelock, New Zealand’s capital of green lip mussels.
I’m still trying to recreate some of the dishes from that amazing array of mussels and figured this book, which I bought secondhand at Canty’s Bookshop, might help.
Black forest mussels with mushrooms and brandy
30g/1 oz butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
145g/5 oz finely sliced black forest mushrooms or field mushrooms
1 clove garlic, chopped
1kg/2 1/4 lb black mussels, cleaned
100ml/3 1/2fl oz white wine
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons thickened or double cream
Place butter, onions, mushrooms and garlic in a pot and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add mussels, white wine and seasoning. Cook mussels until all mussels have opened, stirring frequently, Add cream and stir for 30 seconds. Add brandy and cook for another 1 minute. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.
How it played out
Most Sunday afternoons I head out to the Fyshwick Markets for the blitz of specials they have before the market closes for three days. Sometimes mussels are one of the bargains.
Last week I had success and bought a kilo of black mussels for $6. There weren’t any black forest mushrooms—not sure they are even available in Australia—but field mushrooms were plentiful.
Followed the recipe as written, using double cream, St Agnes brandy (an Aussie brand) and a nice dry Blind Side white purchased through Naked Wines, which supports new Aussie winemakers.
Luckily only one mussel didn’t open, so Poor John and I could have a real feast.
I served this with buttered slices of my homemade sourdough rye bread. It’s not on any page 32, but I’m happy to share the recipe if anyone is interested.
A yummy and light meal. Still not quite as good as any of the dishes we had in Havelock, but still well worth repeating whenever mussels are on special.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue my attempts to recreate a memory.
Christmas is nearly here. We’ll be having a lamb roast on the 24th and a spread of seafood on Christmas Day. That reminds me of our Christmas in Brazil’s Pantanal. We started the day fishing for piranha—they are so easy to catch—and then ate the catch for lunch.