South Africa West Coast

Mussel Soup

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From Crayfish to Iron
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It’s winter time in South Africa; that wonderful season when the rains in the Western Cape cause the veld flowers to burst out of the ground. And like all good wintry days, there’s nothing like a hearty fish soup to warm the cockles (no pun intended!) Here goes:
  • Serves 4-6.
  • 25ml butter
  • 125g rindless streaky bacon, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium onions, quartered and sliced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 litre good fish stock (see below*)
  • 300g fillets of (a firm) fish, cubed
  • 25ml chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 25ml chopped fresh tarragon
  • 300g black mussels (see below**) and removed from the shells)
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 250ml sour cream (Smetena)
  • 250ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mussel Soup

Fry bacon gently in the butter, add the onions and then the potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, but do not brown. Add fish stock and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add fish fillets, parsley, bay leaves, tarragon and the red pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Lastly, add the mussels, the milk and the cream. Bring to the boil and serve immediately.

  • 1kg fish heads and bones
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Bunch of parsley stalks
  • Pared rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 5ml salt
  • 5 black peppercorns

Fish Stock

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat, skim and simmer for 35 minutes.

Strain through a muslin and cook the stock before refrigerating.

Important Information: Mussels

First and foremost, in order to collect shellfish, one requires a permit to do so. This can be obtained from the local Police Station or Magistrate’s Court. Another very important point is that with the advent of autumn, red tide is once again upon us. Consequently, the public is asked to check the safety of picking mussels (and other bivalve shellfish) by dialling the Red Tide Alert desk in Cape Town (021) 4394380 or (021) 4023368.

Only pick mussels that have been submerged in water. Wash in cold water to remove exterior sand. And this tip from a local old-timer: throw a handful of flour into a bucket of fresh water, then add the mussels. Leave for a couple of hours. The flour irritates them and causes them to purge themselves. Bear in mind that the process of cleaning white mussels is vastly different and we’ll tell you more about these delicacies of the coastline at another time.

Discard any mussels that are not completely closed or with broken shells. Scrub with a strong brush to remove barnacles and pull out the beard.

Prepare a court bouillon or take the easy way by using a chicken stock cube or two dissolved in hot water. Steam the mussels in the bouillon/stock and as soon as the shells open (which is a matter of minutes), remove. They are now ready for eating or using in a recipe such as that given above. Discard any mussels that do not open.

Thank you to Lucille Byrnes of Dolphin Bed & Breakfast, Britannia Bay, for the recipes and information. Altyd 'n ou staatmaker!!

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