To quote Hannibal Smith from that 80s show, the A Team, I love it when a plan comes together. And so it was a few days ago. The people from Anthonij Rupert Wines in Franschhoek had sent me a bottle of their 2017 Protea Sauvignon Blanc along with a gorgeous tea candle holder made from an up-cycled Protea bottle. It’s late spring, so green and light was what I wanted to cook. Initially I entertained thoughts of scallops with a broad bean puree to pair with this lovely crisp everyday Sauvignon Blanc. And then I saw the price of scallops. Eeeek. A plan B was called for.
Fortunately my disappointment was brief because I soon spotted some micro sorrel. Not just green sorrel, but purple too. Yay. With their dainty leaves, they looked an awful lot like the leaves printed on the Protea wine bottle, so in the basket the punnet went along with some voluptuously plump fresh mussels and farm butter.
Back home I picked a sprig of dill and pretty yellow wild rocket flowers from my potted herb garden, and I whipped up a springtime moules mariniere. In case you don’t know, that’s fancy French for mussels cooked very simply with white wine, a knob of butter, parsley, a squeeze of lemon if you’re so inclined, and maybe garlic. Some folks add cream to moules mariniere. Nothing really wrong with that, but purists would argue (rightly so) that that’s not a proper moules mariniere.
They would probably argue that this version isn’t either, but I love the exotic touch just a bit of dill gives it. The sorrel lends an intense sour citrus tang, so it takes the place of lemon. This is spring on a plate for me, so light and fresh. I love it when a plan comes together.
All you need is…
3 tbs finely diced shallots (use white onion if you don’t have any, just cut it really small)
3 heaped tbs salted butter
1 fat clove garlic, finely minced
¾ cup Sauvignon Blanc
1.5kg fresh mussels
handful of flatleaf parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
leaves of a small sprig of dill, roughly chopped
1-2 tbs micro sorrel leaves (substitute with a generous squeeze of lemon if you cannot find any)
edible flowers, i.e. wild rocket flowers or nasturtium petals
Before we start, a note on the mussels: You cannot, but really seriously cannot, make moules mariniere with anything other than very good quality FRESH mussels. Not frozen, not on the half-shell – fresh mussels, straight from the sea, with beardy bits and barnacles still clinging to them. If you’re not lucky enough to have a good local fishmonger, larger Woolies food shops tend to have mussels on ice at their fish counters. (If you live in Cape Town, the Constantia Woolworths pretty much always has it, the Cavendish and Waterfront branches not.)
Prepare the mussels by pulling off the beards and knocking off any barnacles with the handle of a knife. Place them in a colander and give them a very good rinse. Next fry the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes. You just want to sweat them, you definitely do not want any colour on them. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Turn up the heat, tumble in the mussels and add the wine. Pop the lid on and cook until the mussels are just done. (It takes about 5 minutes – they’re done as soon as they are open.) Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and dill. Tumble mussels and cooking broth into a large bowl and scatter over sorrel and wild rocket flowers or nasturtium petals. Serve the moules mariniere right away.
If you are adding crusty baguette to dip into that lovely broth, this recipe will serve three people as a main. If you are avoiding the bread, it will serve two.
About the Protea range from Anthonij Rupert Wines: This range of whites, pink and reds is simply fantastic value for easy everyday drinking. But what makes is even more special is their environmentally conscious approach to packaging. Each variety boasts a unique design printed onto the bottles. Once the paper label has been removed, you have a beautiful bottle to up-cycle as practically anything! Fill it with cooking oil or vinegar, bath oil, dishwashing liquid and more. Or go all out and turn the bottles into water glasses, planters, light fittings/lamps or, as in my pic here, a fabulous tea light holder! The Protea range is available at bottle stores and supermarkets countrywide and also online at Anthonij Rupert Wines.