Monday, January 21, 2008

Food for thought: Chilli Mussels

This is a bit different. I've written it for the skinny gourmet, and her food for thought event. I'd like to cook these and take a picture to show you, but I'm missing a few key ingredients. Mostly, I'm missing a sunny Sunday afternoon, the great brown Swan River estuary, and a bunch of Freo drinking buddies. They are all still around - just far, far away.

First you need a hot, dry Fremantle afternoon. A salty sea breeze would help, but the tang of a sheep ship in harbour is strictly optional. The best way to get the mussels is to jump off the jetty at East Fremantle Scout hall with a snorkel and a diving bag. Oh, and a heap of friends. The water is around three metres deep, tannic and briny. The depth is helpful - you don't want to pull any mussels off the top third, in case they've been left high and dry by the tide. And the bottom third are also unadvisable, because any persistent pollutants will linger in the mud below. The mussels grow thick on the pylons, and it isn't hard to gather enough for a feed.
The next step requires a friend with a backyard and a barbecue. Sit in the backyard and pick over the booty. It doesn't require a lot of concentration - just discard any tiny mussels, or broken ones, and trim off their beards. Beer helps this process, and it goes quicker when there's a few willing hands. The beer of course, is Little Creatures.
Finally, you need to turn on the barbecue and find a stockpot. You could cook this in the kitchen, but it would stink out the whole house. Also, this is boy food. The barbecue is better. Maybe a third of a bottle of white wine goes in the stockpot, along with some chilli and ginger. Always a lot of chilli. When it's nearly boiling, the mussels go in and the lid goes on - you only need to steam them for two or three minutes. Tip them out in huge bowls and pour over hot tomato puree and fresh parsley. There might be chips, if anyone can be convinced to drive to the fish and chip shop. But otherwise, eat with crusty bread, much mess, and more beer.
The afternoon slides into evening - maybe it's cooler. Either way, there's more to drink, and too many mussels to finish. Whoever manned the barbecue will be telling the rest to eat up - half annoyed that his labour is going to waste. But everybody is full and lazy, and the mussels will still be good for sandwiches tomorrow.
And nobody is in any hurry.

No comments: