Magic mussels

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Mussels love the West Coast because the Benguela current is rich with plankton, making it a prime breeding-ground. So it came to be that Saldanha Bay became the epicentre of the fast-growing mussel export industry. Here they primarily cultivate the Mediterranean blue mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis, and boy, are they delicious!

But instead of the frozen ones sent for export, we’re privileged to enjoy this West Coast staple fresh as the morning dew.

Mussels with leeks, thyme and bacon
Ingredients: 750 gm West Coast mussels; 25 gm butter; 6 rashers streaky bacon chopped into small pieces; 2 small leeks sliced diagonally; handful of thyme sprigs; a small glass of white wine.

Method: Place mussels in the sink. Swirl them around thoroughly and discard any with broken shells or half-open shells. Pull off the beards. Heat half the butter in a pan, then sizzle the bacon for 3 – 4 minutes until starting to brown. Add the leeks and thyme, then sweat everything together for 4 – 5 minutes until soft. Turn the heat up high, add the mussels and wine, then cover and cook for 4 – 5 minutes until the mussels have opened. (Shake the pan occasionally.) Discard any that didn’t open. Scoop the mussels and other bits into a dish, then place the pan back on the heat. Boil the juices for 1 minute with the rest of the butter, then pour over the mussels and serve with crusty bread.