Where we live, in between Johannesburg and Pretoria and hundreds of kms from the sea, it's quit difficult to find fresh mussels. It's a pitty, because I really do LOVE them and NEED them. We have eaten them once in a restaurant on 4th Avenue in Joburg. Two weeks ago at the Food Lovers Market here in Centurion I found them and I was over the moon. I bought the whole batch and took the little darlings home. Later on I found out that Bazaruto fishmarket sells them on order, but you have to take 5 kg, so I'm thinking of ordering 10 kg and throwing a big mussel party for all my mussel loving friends very soon!! If you can't find live mussels, forget about the whole thing (please don't even try, it will be a very big dissapointment), frozen mussels are not an option: they are dead and therefore rubbery and chewy.
You will need about 3/4 to1 kg fresh mussels per person. The shells have to be closed, or close when you tap them. Throw away open or broken shells. Wash them under running water, take the barnacles attached to the shells off with a sharp knife, as well as the beards (hairy dark green stuff), that might still be on some of them.
One tip if you are still in the process of trying to like mussels: do not open and have a look inside the mussel itself, it will probably put you off eating it... Not my 5 year old girl however, she is attracted to the strangest looking food and will eat or at least try anything!
Serves 4 (main course):
- 3 kg - 4 kg live mussels
- 1 tbsp olive oil- 1 onion, finely chopped
- handful of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 (0.33 l) bottle of dark (Belgian) beer
- 2 cups water
- salt and pepper to taste
In a musselpan (or just a high, big, not to heavy pan with a lid) saute onion for a minute in a splash of olive oil or butter. Add mussels, beer, water, parsley and celery and boil/steam for a few minutes, until all the shells have opened (shake the pan a few times to check this). As soon as the shells are open, serve in the pan with frieten (fries) or crusty bread and some dipsauces (mayonaise garlic dip, chutney curry dip, herb dip, etc). Don't forget to eat the delicious beer soup you will end up with! (Afterwards, you can save the soup, reduce it to 1/3 and, with a little cream, turn it in to a delicious pasta sauce!)