My friends and colleagues Phil Lamb from Spring Bay Seafoods in Tasmania and director of CQ Foods Michael Canals passed this on to me.

It is simply more information to confirm our belief that if a mussel doesn’t open when cooked it’s still fine to eat. Up to 370 tonnes of perfectly good mussels are thrown away each year because of an idea about mussels that is dated and hasn’t been challenged until now. Try it for yourself and remember if a mussel if no good it will smell to high heaven (and beyond).

AMIA4102_Mussel Fact Sheet_V2_Interactive

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With all the commerciality of this time of year with Valentine’s Day & fluffy toys & silver balloons (what are those things!). For me, this image above is something that represents love – an enduring love that has been through hellish moments and powerful joy but a love that is still going strong 51 years on.

These are my parent’s tea cups. Every morning after breakfast dad has his tea (always a good leaf tea in a lovely big pot)  in his black-and-white cup with ‘an eyedrop of milk’ and mum’s takes her floral teacup and has her’s black. Another cup is had in the evening after dinner, usually in front of the tv.

To me, this is something worth acknowleding about love: laughter, pleasure, conversation, hardship, respect, trust, frustration, conflict, anger, happiness, affection make up the totality of a long-term relationship and that’s the love that should be celebrated just as much as the young, excitable passionate love that is just as joyous but not nearly as formidable.

Happy Valentine’s Day

 

I was very recently contacted by a friend/colleague who told me about this article ‘Mussel Myth an open and shut case’ by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and she then brought up the small piece I wrote for Epicure in The Age last year about mussels. If a mussel is shut it doesn’t mean you should toss it out because it’s off. A mussel is very clear about letting you know if it’s off (it will smell awful).

Peter Lillie from Bay Sea Farms has taken the article I wrote and is putting it up at his stall where he sells at the Mt Eliza Farmers Market and the Pier at Mt Martha as he has been giving product away to make up for people’s ‘bad ones’.

Mussels are a sustainable, delicious and easy-to-cook choice (very reasonably priced too), so consider the mussel whether they’re open…or shut.

Here is the passage about Mussels from the Season’s Bounty column in Epicure The Age from last year.

Mussels

From a sustainability perspective mussels are a great choice; the methods used to farm them have little environmental impact, they are filter feeders so take their nutrients from the water in which they’re grown and they are very affordable. The major fallacy about mussels is that if they don’t open they are dead or bad and have to be tossed out. This isn’t true. If a mussel is bad it’s going to smell, really bad. When cooking, mussels thrive in a big pot with liquid that will highlight the meat rather than overwhelm it. Classic combinations of garlic, white onion and white wine finished with fresh parsley are simply a matter of placing the onion and garlic in the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, putting in the mussels, then a cup of the wine, covering with a lid and leaving for three minutes. Other flavours and liquids to cook mussels in include lager, orange juice and coriander; lime juice, chilli and vietnamese mint or coconut milk, thai basil, chicken stock and chilli.

Hilary McNevin

The sardine, I’ve said it before (and will do so again here) it’s a deliciously unctuous, omega-3 laiden, slightly salty, fleshy fish that’s insanely sustainable. The sardine is far from being over-fished and is very very inexpensive. It grills quickly and is lovely with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and can carry bigger flavours too, like garlic and chilli. Choosing sardines at the fish counter is a very sustainable, affordable, tasty choice.

Wine writer and sustainability advocate Max Allen has found what to drink with this small fish – a wine called Vermentino –  this is a grape variety from Sardinia that’s grown around the Mediterranean, its a sturdy grape that copes well in harsh climates and produces a crisp, dry wine that has some length and its own character along with a refreshing finish. It’s perfect for the Australian climate and there’s some beautiful Vermentino being made in Australia now. Max wrote a brilliant piece about the grape variety and its easy marriage with grilled sardines. He mused about the idea of allowing people to try this combination of oily, distinctive fish with some examples of Australian-made Vermentino. It could be considered a sustainable culinary solution (bloody clever I say!).

Australian winemakers who are making Vermentino liked what they read and Sardines & Vermentino The Musical ‘played’ its last gig today in Sydney after appearing in Adelaide Friday 21st January and Melbourne 24th January.

Tressle tables were piled high with different examples of the wine, tasting glasses and fleshy sardines deliciously grilled served next to them and it was all for free. Getting people to try Vermentino is what S&V The Musical was about and this sustainable feast of fish and white wine literally took the product to the streets.

Quite simply, you’d be mad not to try Vermentino – it’s readily available in bottle shops – it’s affordable and in the cooler months ahead I’m going to make a dish of linguine tossed with grilled sardines, lots of garlic, lemon zest, chilli, oregano, parsley perhaps a touch of a well-reduced tomato sugo and I’m going to try an Australian Vermentino with it – anyone care to join me?

Here are the winemakers who took their haul to three cities in 5 days to allow people a taste of their Vermentino.

919 Wines, Boyntons, Brown Brothers, Chalmers, De Bortoli, Ducks in a Row, Foxey’s Hangout, Mitolo, Trentham Estate and Yalumba

Get tasting!

In October last year, I was thinking of what to contribute food-wise for my mum’s birthday party, I was arriving in Brisbane that morning, time was an issue and I was asked to ‘make a plate of something to nibble on with drinks’.

I love prawns from Queensland, they have a meatiness to their texture and a sweetness in flavour that I really enjoy and as dull as it may sound to some, I love standing over the kitchen sink, peeling each one, separating the shells from the flesh and putting the shells aside to make a quick stock. To keep it really simple I made sandwiches – yep – prawn sandwiches.

*Finely sliced pieces of fresh sourdough baguette held chopped prawn flesh that was tossed with home-made mayo, some chopped fresh parsley, two torn basil leaves (you don’t want the basil to overpower but just lift the flavours), generous squeezes of lime juice, one short, sharp squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper in small sandwiches that lasted two bites.

I was asked to make them again on Christmas day to have while we sipped sparkling wine and opened presents. The request surprised me.

I asked my sister who was hosting lunch, “Why do you think people enjoy these so much?”

“Look what you’re doing,” she said,”you’re taking time and peeling those creatures and doing a fiddly job for us. Who doesn’t want prawns peeled for them, it’s kind of you to do it and you make them taste good. It’s a luxury.”

What’s a luxury for some is an act of love and generosity for another and so it is that I will probably be making prawn sandwiches at family events for the foreseeable future.

Who would have thought that a prawn sandwich could represent luxury, love, giving and family.

Happy 2011.

*This paragraph is the recipe for these simple treats. Quantities obviously equate to the number of people and to your taste. I like to make my own mayo but there are some decent ones out there to buy if you’d rather not go down that track.

When I wrote Guide to Fish, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) very kindly gave me permission to use their research on the fish species I chose to put in the book.

The AMCS have just released an new version of their sustainable seafood guide. A smart, litte book to take to the market that lists fish alpabetically and talks about the fish to avoid, the ones to eat occasionally and the better choices.

They’ve also, thoughtfully, put the guide up on line.

Click here to view the guide online

Click here to have a look around the AMCS online shop

My sister and I sat next to each other at a family barbecue recently in Queensland.

We get on well.

We were eating barbecued beef sirloin, charred on the outside, both medium-rare with horseradish, mustard and salads of vibrant greens; white beans with lemon and parsley, and blistered cherry tomatoes on the side.

We got talking beef and shopping for meat at the butcher shop:

Me: How’s your butcher here?

Sis: Great overall.

Me: what do you mean overall? Is he helpful when you ask questions?

Sis: Well, yes…I ask for a cut of meat and he gives it to me and has given me cooking tips.

I wasn’t sure how much to get for everyone coming tonight and he was helpful. Is that what you mean?

Me: So how about grain and grass fed, how long it’s aged, that kind of thing…I’m curious…

Sis: I never talk to him about things like that.

Me: But you buy meat from him?

Sis: yes, but he just gives me … meat

Me: So, how about if you have a dinner party. Just you and your husband, and two best mates for a special occasion – would you let him give you just what he gives you then?

Sis: Well…I don’t know…I guess so…

Me: A really simple way of looking at it is that grass fed will be more expensive and I think, great for special occasions. So, for your special dinner party ask for grass-fed beef – it’s flavour is spectacular, yep, it’ll cost more but you don’t need that much.

For a night like tonight, with about 15 of us, grain-fed is good. It’s more about texture than flavour. It certainly tastes good but with grain-fed beef you’re going to get a more tender, textural mouthfeel. Grass-fed is robust and earthy

Sis: God you talk alot but I’d never thought of it like that – thanks.