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Cooking Mussels

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by Joanna Lamb (subscribe)
Freelance writer and blogger. Visit my interior design blog at
Published January 23rd 2011
Ah summer. The days are warmer and longer, and favourable to lazy outdoor meals that last well into the evening. One of my favourite summer meals is mussels. I used to be wary of preparing and cooking shellfish, but I've since learnt that it's actually very easy. Mussels are a beautiful, light meal that go down perfectly with a glass (or three!) of chilled white wine.

You'll need about 1kg of mussels. I like to get mine on the day from Footscray Markets or Queen Victoria Markets, where the mussels come in fresh every morning. When you're ready to cook them, fill the sink up with cold water and scrub the mussels to get rid of any grit or dirt that may be on the shells. Take this opportunity to also remove the 'beard' from the mussels. One at a time, take the mussels and tug down on the beard (the clump of hairs) sticking out from the shell. As you do this, transfer the mussels to a clean bowl of water.

Once you've removed the beards, heat a saucepan over medium-high. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes, as well as about half a cup of finely chopped tomatoes. Cook this mixture, giving it a good stir, for about a minute. Add the mussels, along with about quarter of a cup of white wine. Give it another stir, and then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the mussels have opened.

While the mussels are cooking, halve a small baguette and mix together some softened butter along with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. Spread this garlic butter over the two halves of baguette, then place them under a hot grill and cook until golden. By now, the mussels should be about ready. Stir some chopped basil through them, as well as some sea salt and pepper to add flavour.

This amount of mussels will feed two adults – for more people, double the ingredients. Ladle the mussels and sauce into bowls, with the garlic baguettes on the side, and make sure you have another bowl nearby to pop the empty shells in. Pour yourself a glass of white wine, which will compliment the flavours of your meal beautifully.

You'll find that mussels are quick and easy to prepare, and it's always fun heading out to the markets to find the freshest produce available. But best of all, I'm certain you'll find that these mussels taste absolutely delicious. Enjoy!
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Why? Make the most of summer evenings and the freshest produce Melbourne has to offer!
Where: Footscray and Queen Victoria Markets both have fresh mussels available
Cost: You'll get a kilo of mussels for under $20
The other week, I had a budget disaster. I beach swim many mornings and this morning, wondering how I was going to pay the bills and get through the week, I went down to the beach to find a large buoy on the beach, just were I start my swim. The buoy was covered in mussels. I giggled and thought how the universe provides. I didnt eat the mussels, I didnt need to. I did though look out to sea and wonder if some aspect of the universe was telling me something.

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