We made this mussel ragout in the eastern cape coast of South Africa. The old idiom “Necessity is the mother of invention” is certainly true here – We pulled the mussels off the rocks, and the watercress was growing wild at a spring near the house. The japanese flavours work perfectly with tomato and seafood, and really lift a simple dish to amazing heights.
I wouldn’t recommend doing this with shop bought frozen mussels – if you can’t get this absolutely fresh, then rather do something else with your mussels – white wine and cream can cover up the unhappiness of frozen mussels quite nicely.
Mussel ragout with watercress and miso.
- 1/2 bucket freshly picked mussels
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red chilli
- 3 very ripe, large red tomatoes Can use a can of chopped tomato as well.
- 2 tbsp miso
- 3 tbsp naturally brewed soya sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 handfuls of watercress Can be substituted for another sharp herb, such as rocket.
- 3 medium zucchini
- First harvest your mussels. Go out onto the rocks at low tide with a blunt knife, and lever the knife under the mussels to cut/break the fibrous foot that attaches the mussel to the rocks. Harvesting far away from sandy areas is best, if you are harvesting in shallow rock pools or near the beach your mussels can be very sandy.Cover the harvested mussels with fresh water and leave for at least an hour for them to open up and release their sand.
- Steam the mussels in a large pot, covered, with a small amount of salted water or wine at the bottom - cook until the mussels have all opened, around 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat, open each mussel with your hands, and remove the fibrous foot - it will have retracted into the mussel. Take care not to destroy the mussel meat in the process. You can do a very elegant variation by leaving the mussels in their half-shells, which collect some of the cooking sauce. You will notice that the mussels stick to one half of the shell on opening. If you decide to do this, clean the outside of the half shell that the mussel sticks of all barnacles and dirt, otherwise you will get grit in your ragout. If you decide to shell the mussels completely, then skip the above step and discard the shells. Place the shells mussels or half shells in a bowl and rinse again well with fresh water to wash out any sand that might have slipped through.
- Fry the onions, garlic and chilli until translucent, add the tomato and cook until the tomato starts breaking down and thickening the sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the miso, soya sauce, sugar, zucchini and watercress and cook until the zucchini is al dente - about another 5 minutes.Add the mussels, heat through and serve hot with a fresh salad and some dry white wine.