I’m of the mindset that a change of seasons needn’t mean a slow-down on seafood. Enter my favourite winter mussel recipe made with unctuously rich chicken stock. A far heartier option for a chilly evening.
The prohibition of booze South Africa recently experienced under lockdown meant that mussels steamed in wine didn’t happen, I went ahead and developed a handy little recipe that cooks the molluscs in chicken stock instead to make the most of locally farmed West Coast mussels. Cultivated in Saldanha Bay, mussels and oysters grow plump and juicy in winter, as stronger storm-influenced currents dredge up minerals from the sea floor, nourishing the molluscs and keeping them clean and healthy. The addition of the chicken stock lends a comforting depth of flavour to seafood – especially when paired with wintery veggies like leeks and fennel. If you find the idea of soupy mussels a little unappealing, you can always enrich the broth with a dash of cream or wine.
Something that I always have at hand in my freezer, my chicken stock is made from the lovely gloopy liquid leftover from when I roast a bird. I simply add that and the bones of the chicken to a pot with a litre of water and simmer the broth on low for an hour. Then I strain the stock, reserving the liquid in my freezer for use in soups, sauces and stews.
A Winter Mussel Recipe
Prep time: /Cook time: /Serves: 4
You will need:
- 2 – 3 kilograms of fresh Mediterranean mussels, cleaned
- 150ml dry white wine
- 250ml chicken stock
- 6-8 baby leeks, finely sliced
- 1 large fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- 30ml butter, for frying
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
I used my Le Creuset enamel-on-steel Moules steamer for this recipe but any heavy-based pot with a lid will do.
Place the pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add in the leeks and fennel and sauté until soft. Add in the garlic and rosemary and season, going easy on the salt. Pour in the wine and deglaze the base of the pot then add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the mussels, top the pot with the lid and leave to steam for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. Stir the opened mussels through the sauce at the base of the pot.
Serve the mussels immediately with lots of warm crusty bread and a full-bodied white wine such as Noble Hill Sur Lie Chenin Blanc – a viable pairing to seafood thanks to its delicately distinctive mineral notes and fruity acidity. Grapes from naturally irrigated old vines are combined with a new vineyard planted in decomposed granite soils high on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountain. This amalgamation ripens slowly, eventually heading for wild yeast fermentation in concrete barrels. Left on the fine lees for 9 months, the Chenin develops maturity and depth, hence the Sur Lies moniker. Aromas of lime blossom, honeydew melon and green apple perfectly balance out the rich flesh of Cape Bream or the unctuous belly fat of winter snoek.
Finally, shelling out for fresh mussels needn’t be troublesome. My friend Kyle of The Mussel Monger is now delivering the most delicious farmed Saldanha Bay oysters and mussels direct to your door each week.