Having anchored our boat in a quiet bay, The Boy was feeling intrepid and ventured out onto the scratchy, barnacle-clad rocks in search of little fishies. After a period of disappearance, he returned, pink cheeked with pride bearing all sorts of goodies. His bucket contained a variety of delicate, spritely fish, an baby starfish and five shrimps.
The incy, wincy starfish (only an inch or so across) was coo-ed over and then gently placed back into its pool but we held on to the shrimps - good eatin' to be had there! Our seas and beaches are full of gorgeous goodies that anyone can make the most of if you know where to look.
Buoyed by his successful hoard, we went to for a wander along the surf and what did we find? Several mammoth rocks encrusted in midnight blue mussels which, in turn, were stuffed with silvery barnacles. We grinned gleefully at one another and picked eagerly at the shells. They weren't as stuck fast as I expected - I had memories of a mini-me whacking unsuspecting limpets with rocks in an attempt to knock them off their home rocks before they suckered themselves on. Mussels are far easier to harvest, as it turns out.
After a quick google (the wonders of Smart phones) and some advice from our elders, we made quick work of collecting a box full. They were quite easily teased from the rocks by twisting them which broke their 'beards' away - the delicate strings that fix them to the surface of the stone - without damaging the mollusk. We mostly picked from the waterline and chose mussels which stayed in the water for as long as possible - our intuition told us that these would be the freshest but I've no idea if this is correct. We mostly went for mussels which were 6 - 7cm long and avoided the baby ones (less than 5cm). As with all foraging, we only took what we would be able to eat and left more than we took (we wouldn't want to spoil it for others now, would we?). Since our expedition, I've read that mussels actually spawn between May and August so harvesting is generally discouraged during this time. We stored them in a large plastic box which was filled with fresh sea water and kept them in the shade for the trip home.
Back at our rented caravan, we prepped our goodies. Have a look at the instructions above if you haven't done it before and are curious. It's a bit labour intensive but it's well worth it. Myself, The Boy and my Mum-in-Love stood around the sink and chatted away while we worked so it was no hardship. After the cleaning was done, there was one dish in the fore front of all of our imaginations that would showcase these little treasures of the sea.
Serves five as a starter
1.5kg prepared mussels, rinsed
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
100ml white wine or cider
120ml single cream
Sunflower oil or butter
- Sweat the onion and garlic in a splash of oil or knob of butter in a saucepan large enough to take all of the mussels until completely softened.
- Add the mussels and stir well so that they're completely coated in onion.
- Turn up the heat and pour in wine and cream. Cover and simmer for 3 - 4 minutes or until the majority of the mussels are open. Shake the pan every so often so move the mussels about.
- Stir in the parsley and ladle into bowls. Serve with crusty bread to mop up any juices. Discard any mussels that have not opened during cooking.