I always wanted to write a cookbook. And since playing with the idea, I’ve gained a better sense of my relationship with food. I grew up eating a mix of Latin cuisine and American comfort food. In New Zealand, the freshest ingredients rule the kitchen table. As my interest in gardening has grown, so has my concern for where my food comes from. I even used to claim that a cookbook (Food to Live By by Myra Goodman) changed my life. I leave one bite at the end of every meal so as to not ruin the best bite. I can eat with my left and right hand when need be and I have mastered chopsticks. I’ve tried gluten and dairy-free diets and have a love-hate relationship with the kitchen and dirty dishes. Most of my traveling and time off revolves around what to cook next and where to eat. Whether this makes me a foodie or not, I don’t know. But the honest truth is I love food.
Yesterday, Isaac kayaked out to Ward Island (in the Wellington Harbour) and caught mussels for dinner. He bagged about 20 or so in various sizes and we steamed them in beer and butter for tea (aka supper).
It was an experience to say the least and quite a test of our fears of eating fresh-caught shellfish. But this is the definition of New Zealand. How fresh can you get the food? Do you know the person who grew it? Did it grow in your own backyard? Or how fresh can you prepare it? When asked by friends and family to define New Zealand cuisine, only one word comes to mind: fresh. Fresh as. While I’ve enjoyed eating fresh daily, I do miss the spices. Food here doesn’t come with the same kick as Indian or Mexican cuisines. Nevertheless, fresh feels great. And looks divine.
Below is our recipe for green-lipped mussels:
Prep time: 12 hours soak plus prep
Cook time: 15 mins
Tools: brush to scrub mussels, 5-6 qt pot
20 green-lipped mussels, various sizes
50 g butter
2 bottles beer – lager preferably
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp chives, chopped
1 tsp spring onion, chopped
½ tsp rosemary, diced
1 jalapeno, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Mussels should soak in saltwater as long as possible (12 hours minimum). This gets them spitting sand from their innards. Clean and debeard mussels outside (remove “the beard” aka stringy bits inside hanging out and scrub clean in fresh water).
In 5-6 qt. pot, saute garlic, onion, chives in oil til brown (I call the combo a crau). Add mussels and beer then cover. Wait for steam (est. 5 mins). Once steaming, keep covered and allow to steam 4 more minutes. Uncover to check to see if mussels opened. If unopened, continue steaming, checking periodically. Once open, add rosemary, salt, pepper, jalapeno, and butter. Cook additional 5 minutes and serve with crusty bread, hot sauce or chips (aka fries).
Enjoy by the sea and feel the full circle of farm-to-table eats!