As far as I can remember, most Easter holidays have involved fair to large amounts of rain. Once I went to Coffs Harbour (a coastal town about 5 hours north of Sydney) with my family, it was going to be our big trip for the year. Dad was going to do things like relax and turn his then, very new, mobile phone off. Things like long walks on the beach and lazing around by the pool were slated, shorts and thongs were packed and the house locked up for a weekend at the beach.
We were greeted then, by rain, rain and more rain. Puddles formed on the pathway between our villa and the rest of the hotel. It got chilly and we wished we had packed more warmly. We visited the local cinema, multiple times, until all the family friendly movies were exhausted. Oh boy, did it rain.
Many a year later, but still only really willing to watch family friendly movies, I found myself looking for an Easter destination. Exhausted from a demanding job and not willing to make the trek up the coast, I booked Call me Jose and I into a little apartment at Berowra Waters. Again, optimistic clothing was packed. Shorts, terry towelling hats and even some swimming gear. Alas, it rained and rained and rained. It rained when we were in the tinny trying to fish, it rained while we were watching DVD’s in the apartment and it rained while I tried my hand at deep frying whitebait.
This year though, after a whirlwind last couple of months or so, I was not prepared to risk the rain. So Easter was spent at home. I was hoping for glorious sunny days, so that I could be proven wrong about the Easter rain and again head up or down the coast, for a little respite and rest….but I’m not holding my breath. The best thing about staying home over a holiday break is that it can be spent cooking without packing the boot full of cooking appliances, condiments and ingredients you’re just not sure will be available in the sleepy beachside town you’ve chosen.
This year, I was joined with one of my favourite eating partners, for a long lunch, some old school scrabble and a glass of vino while we feasted on these pretties. Mussels are great for entertaining because you really don’t need to spend much time away from your guests and everyone has a little fun getting their hands dirty and slurping the juices out of their bowls.
The recipe is inspired by the one in David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook; but realising that I didn’t have about half the ingredients the resembelance now comes down to the method rather than the taste.
Really Good Friday Mussels
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 x 3 cm knob of ginger, grated
4 tbsp scallions, sliced thinly
2 tsp miso paste
2 tbs mirin
2 tbs sushi vinegar
1 tsp black bean and garlic paste (available at Asian grocery stores)
2 tbsp rice bran oil
generous splash vodka (maybe about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 kilos mussels, washed and bearded
You Need To
Prepare the garlic, ginger and scallions. Place in a bowl with the miso, mirin, sushi vinegar and black bean and garlic paste. Set aside until needed.
Wash the mussels and making sure you get as many of the beards out of them as possible.
Set a large pot or pan (with lid) on a high heat and add the rice bran oil. Once the oil heats up, add the mussels and cover for 1-1/2 minutes.
Open quickly, add the vodka and close again for another minute.
Tip the pot to one side, so that the mussels all gather together at one end, where there is now space in the pot add the miso mixture and mix with the pan juices. Toss everything together and cover for another minute or so, making sure that all the mussels open.
Discard any mussels that remain closed.
Despite the Asian flavours in this dish, I serve it with a fresh baguette, fluffier, whiter and more absorbent the better- no need for fancy bread here.