It wasn’t that I completely don’t cook back in Singapore. I did. My mum’s a good cook and there was never any reason for me to take over that job. Furthermore, work was tiring and there were other things to do. Fast foward, I got married. I was inspired somewhat to try out fancier recipes on my off days but the hub’s feedback would alway be lukewarm. But he’s never been the effusive type. There were also other things to take care of and settle. Bubs came along and eating was just for survival.
Then we came to Melbourne for training. It was stressful and nerve wrecking with a foreign land and an apartment that is completely anti-childproofing! What do I mean? The cabinets cannot by any means be locked using those childproofing devices. There are no locks on the doors. That’s just to name a few problems. As with all Aussie rental properties, our apartment came with a dish washer. Not something I actually needed and it screamed at the bubs to be pressed, along with the oven. We had to hunt for the mains for the oven and dish washer to switch them off permanently. They ended up being places for me to store various cooking vessels and implements. Melbourne is a lovely city. But public transport is not the best and going to buy groceries with a toddler in tow is difficult. Our initial trip with the bubs was such a nightmare we decided that only the hubs would go next time. But that meant that I may have missing items and I had to have a good grocery list for him to follow. To add to my grief, the fridge the hubs bought when we came was a BAR FRIDGE. It had a tiny freezer and almost no space in it to fit any leftovers at all. Marketing was also done by the hubs and I’d have to plan the entire weeks menu because there was no space of any extras. NONE. I would have thrown in the towel if it weren’t for the fact that I managed to persuade the hubs to buy another freezer at Aldi when they had a sale. It made life so much easier. For the first time in a long time, we could have ice cream! I could start freezing my herbs for future use. I could make chicken stock from scratch. But to make things easier, every corresponding day of the week would see the same dishes on the table so that I didn’t have to think so hard.
One day, the hubs came back with a bag of mussels and said, “You have to try this!” I rolled my eyes at him. Having grown up at the seaside for a good part of my childhood, I knew the lovely briny taste of mussels, just caught, barbequed straight on the beach. It wasn’t something that exciting. But to do it in a tiny kitchen, how was I going to do that? That was the challenge. So I dug around for a recipe that sounded easy enough and embarked on it while the hubs entertained the bubs. By the end of dinner, we looked at each other and agreed that we had to do a weekly “special dinner”. It cheered me up and allowed me to experiment. It also meant that as a family we weren’t eating the same dish again and again. A huge plus was that there were dishes which I could cook which turn out as good as those in restaurants and we’d save a pile!
Back to the mussels. This dish turned out so nicely that I’ve cooked it a couple of times again after that. The sister-in-law and husband came visiting and we decided to have mussels again. So I dug out the recipe and was transported back a few months and enjoying the deja vu feeling while cooking. There are just some dishes which are special like that. I scribbled the recipe in a notebook and didn’t record the source. It was back in the days before I kept a blog. I also scribbled it down in an intuitive fashion so there aren’t any proper measurements. If anyone knows who I should credit, please let me know! Thanks!
Mussels in white wine sauce
Makes enough for 4 – 6 if as a side dish but 3 as a main meal.
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
A fistful of basil finely chopped
1 onion finely diced
1 carrot finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
A dash of white wine
Mussels 1 – 1.5kg
1 tbs canola oil
- Fry carrot, onion and garlic in canola oil until tender
- Add dash of white wine.
- Steam the mussels for 10 – 15 minutes or until the shells open. Reserve the sauce from the steaming and strain.
- Deshell the mussels.
- Add the sauce to the vegetables and bring to a simmer.
- Add cream, lemon juice and basil.
- Add the mussels just before serving.
- How to tell your mussel is fresh – the shells should be tightly shut, not cracked. If the shells are opened they should close when tapped.
- How to clean your mussels – soak in fresh water for 20 minutes and shake in the water. Use a hard brush (I use a new toothbrush from the airlines) and scrub the shells. To debeard, use a pair of tweezers to tug it to the edge of the shell. Sometimes the beard breaks and may need to be debearded after cooking.
- Don’t boil the mussels again as they tend to over cook.
- About 0.5kg of unshelled mussel will feed 1 person as a main course. Half that for an entree.
- I don’t add any salt as the mussels have their own salt and the reserved sauce is full of flavor that makes salt unnecessary.