You haven’t heard from us for a while because we have been busy. Very busy. Okay fine, we haven’t been busy at all—we’ve been on vacation.
This is what vacation looks like on a sailboat. We spend a lot of time at anchor, reading, drinking coffee, napping. When we feel ambitious, we go for a ride in the dinghy, fish a bit, swim if it’s hot. Each day we go for a hike, along pebble beaches for the most part, sometimes along a meadow trail (if the bugs aren’t too hungry.) And some days, we even sail, if it’s sunny and warm and the wind is in the right direction.
Chris has been doing a lot fishing. Well I have to believe that he’s been fishing—though he disappears in the dinghy for hours at a time, he’s yet to bring back a fish. But we have found something we can catch: mussles.
We had read somewhere that there was a mussel bed off Chapel Island, which is one of our favourite anchorages, so we set off in our dinghy to find the spot and yes, just off shore the sandy bottom was littered with mussels! We scooped up a pail full and took them back to the boat. Mmmm. Mussels for dinner. We left them in salt water for several hours, changing the water regularly to remove the grit they were supposed to have spit out. Then we scrubbed them and steamed them and sat down to a bowl full of tasteless mussels full of sand. Well, the ones that opened anyway. Most of them stayed resolutely shut.
But Chris isn’t one to give up. He came back from his next fishing expedition with no fish but with some exciting news: he had found another mussel bed, full of young, clean-looking mussels. Our friends Rick and Sally were coming for a visit so we decided to take them “musseling” and try this again.
In no time we had filled a pail with much more promising-looking mussles, and, as luck would have it, Sally had brought her famous recipe—and all the ingredients. She spent hours carefully scrubbing the mussles (Chris and I may have skimped a little on this step…) then disappeared below deck to reappear in no time with a pot full of steaming mussels.
Now I had pretty much gone off mussels after our last experience, was thinking of becoming a vegetarian to avoid such experiments in the future, but Sally’s mussels made me change my mind. They were delicious. The four of us polished off the whole pot and soaked up the leftover broth with bread. And of course washed it all down with a fine white wine from New Zealand, which Rick and Sally also brought. (Future visitors please take note: anyone attempting to board without a nice bottle of wine—I mean a really nice bottle of wine—will be repelled.)
If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a bonus: Sally’s mussel recipe appears at the end of this post.
Look, I’ve got to go. We’re still on vacation and I have some serious loafing to do.
Mussels with tomato coconut sauce
2 lbs mussels, well cleaned. No, I mean really well cleaned.
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1/2 cup cilantro
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
796 ml (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
398 ml (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
In a medium pot, heat oil on low. Add red peppers and sauté until soft (about 4 minutes). Add whites of the green onions, 1/4 cup cilantro, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, coconut milk, and salt to taste, cover and simmer on low about 10 minutes to let the flavors blend together and to thicken the sauce.
Increase heat to boil and add mussels and cook for 5 minutes or so, until they open. Add lime juice.
Divide equally among 4 bowls and top with remaining green onions and cilantro. Serve with lots of crusty bread.