There’s no shortage of good quality fresh fish and seafood in Melbourne, but getting your hands on it at a reasonable price is another thing. Under the State of Victoria’s present regulations for controlling the spread of Covid-19, there’s a 5 kilometre rule in place which limits the distance one may travel to do essential shopping. My nearest fresh seafood market is around 30 kilometres from my home; it has been 2 months since I’ve enjoyed good fish ( sounds like a confession opening) and I’m beginning to feel like a deprived fish junkie. There was one small window of opportunity back in late July, when my favourite fishmonger offered a fabulous home delivery service: I promptly formed a local group, placed a huge order, then shared the $20 delivery fee. Sadly this fishy opportunity came unstuck when my trustworthy fishmonger closed due to Covid issues. We all cried. In the meantime, I can honestly say that the fish and seafood offerings at my local major supermarket are disappointing. Here’s what’s on offer:- flabby farmed Barramundi, farmed Tasmanian salmon, with its bright pop of pink synthetically dyed flesh, chemically dyed and smoked imported cod, ordinary defrosted New Zealand ling and nastiest of all, Vietnamese Basa, white, bland tasting catfish farmed in suspect ponds around the Mekong river. If local fish turns up at all, it’s ridiculously expensive, grey and tired looking. Shopping for fish at a supermarket is a frustrating business. There are only two questions you may ask: has this fish been defrosted and what is the use by date. The staff behind that deli window display are not fishmongers. Most of the other seafood – prawns, scallops, etc- are thawed in trays daily, the stock trucked in from a national depot somewhere in Australia. None of the offerings reflect locality or season.
But there’s one option on a lucky day that warrants a quick sideways glance when scuttling past that fishy display – the vacuum packed bag of fresh mussels. ( Yes, I know, more plastic). Local black mussels are a sustainable choice. Farmed on long ropes in pristine seas around Victoria, mussels cannot be fed or fertilised; this means the whole production process is totally natural. The only important thing to check is the use by date on the bag when purchasing. Try to obtain mussels that have just been harvested- the longer they’ve been in the bag, the less appealing they become, even if they haven’t yet reached the magic use by date.
Mejillones a la Gallaga – Galician Style Mussels.
- 1 kilo of fresh black mussels
- 1/4 cup white wine for opening the mussels
- 2 tablespoons EV olive oil
- one onion, finely chopped
- two garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 heaped teaspoon of Spanish smoked pimenton/paprika- hot or sweet
- 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads
- one can diced tomatoes, including juice
- ground pepper
- chopped parsley
- In a wide, deep frying pan or non stick wok, heat the oil and add the onions. Cook on medium heat until they soften, about 6 minutes, than add the garlic, and cook for another minute.
- Add the saffron threads and pimenton. Toss through the onions then add the can of tomatoes. Turn the heat down low and cook slowly to thicken.
- Meanwhile in another large lidded pan or pot, open the mussels with the wine. They should all open within a minute or two so stand by with your tongs, ready to remove them as they open. Place the opened mussels in a bowl. Pour the remaining mussel juice through a muslin cloth lined strainer, over another small bowl to catch the juice.
- Add one cup or so of the strained juice to the tomato mixture. Turn up the heat and bubble the tomato mixture/mussel juice to thicken. You my wish to add more juice as you go.
- Remove the top shells of the reserved mussels. After cooking and reducing the tomato mixture for around 10 minutes, check it for seasoning. when its ready, add the mussels and turn through the sauce to heat them.
- Add chopped Italian parsley if you wish and serve with crusty baguette, or cooked bomba rice or small shaped pasta.
If you like eating fish, support a fishmonger before they all disappear.