Fishing and seafood are a big part of Cape Town’s heritage. The waters around here used to jump with many different species of fish, and you could find mussels, abalone (perlemoen), lobsters, prawns, squid and clams all along the coast. These days, since the big commercial fishing industries have all but fished out the local waters, there are much lower populations of shellfish, and much tighter restrictions on when, where and how you’re allowed to fish them.
Happily for folk living in the city, the lovely Julie Carter runs an awesome fresh fish business called Ocean Jewels. Julie is a tireless and effusive advocate for sustainable fishing, and participates actively in the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). That means – just like the excellent people who sell eggs from happy hens, and milk from happy cows – Jules supplies seafood that is sourced via sustainable fishing practices. She sends out weekly emails telling you what’s on offer for the week. You can pop in and get it at the deli at the Woodstock Exchange or just get onto the mailing list and have marvelous seafood delivered to your door.
Anyway, a while back, I ordered a couple of bags of frozen mussels, despite having absolutely no idea what to do with them. This week, back in the grip of winter after a summery week away, I figured a rich mussel soup and some crusty bread sounded like a good thing.
This is what happened:
Wintry mussel soup
1 bag frozen mussels (1 kg, from Ocean Jewels), left to defrost for a few hours
1 bulb fennel
a handful cherry tomatoes
a few cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 cups fish stock
1 cup white wine
lots of parsley
1 cup cream
crusty bread for serving
Finely slice the shallots, leeks, carrot and fennel. Saute them on low heat in some butter or olive oil. Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes and cook a bit longer. Add the stock and wine, and simmer to make a soup for about 10 or 15 minutes. Soon before serving, add the mussels and cream, and simmer for about 5 minutes til the mussels are done.
Sprinkle loads of parsley over, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, and serve with crusty bread.