I have been lucky enough to eat mussels all over the world and all I can say is you can’t beat our Saldanha bay mussels for their delicious minerally ozone flavour. Whilst mussels are loaded with nutrients it is their levels of Vitamin B-12, and Manganese that far outshine other food sources. Selenium is an important mineral in thyroid and immune system function.
If you get to know your fishmonger you will know when their fresh mussels come in to stock. They are usually brought up to Johannesburg on a Tuesday and Friday. Fresh black mussels are also relatively inexpensive, your fishmonger may clean them for you, but if you can avoid buying pre-steamed mussels they have lost a lot of their flavour by this stage.
To clean mussels yourself I find the easiest system is to fill two side by side sinks with cold water, I usually add some ice to the water. In the second sink of water add a large pinch of sea salt. Add all the mussels to the first sink then using a sharp knife, trim and beards and clean up the shells. It might seem like a lot of work, but the mussels naturally open a little when placed into ice cold water making it easier to remove the beards, they open because yes they are alive!
I find with mussels that very heavy cream based sauces are often used to cover up a lack of freshness, if you are using a fresh Saldanha mussel you actually want to do as little as possible and keep the fat levels down so that you allow your palette to taste every subtle bit of ocean flavour.
Pepate di Cozze
– 96 large black mussels
– 2 cups white wine
– 1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsely
– 50mls cream/milk
– 1 clove garlic
– 1,5 tsp freshly crushed black pepper
– 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Once all your mussels are cleaned and you are basically ready to eat start to prepare your mussels. Do not make them, allow them to cool and reheat, they will lose their lovely delicate texture. Heat the olive oil and clove of garlic in a pan, once the garlic starts to colour add the wine. Bring to the boil. Add the mussels and cover, leave to cook for about 3-minutes covered. Open the pan and add the salt, parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Give the mussels a shake and recover. Cover for a further 1 minute, then add the cream, check seasoning and cook covered for another 2 minutes.