A Seafood Platter
Umbrella Point provided rich pickings for a quiet New Years repast. Whilst the oysters were eaten naturally with a squeeze of lemon……… ……..the mussels were fired-up, Moules Eclade style. Eclade des moules originates from the beaches of La Rochelle in the Bay of Biscay. (La Rochelle holds special memories, as daughter Zoe and I stayed for a few nights whilst backpacking our way across Europe – the first time I’d ever seen anyone eat mussels using another mussel as tweezers – très élégant.) Traditionally, mussels are arranged in concentric circles on a plank with their hinges facing uppermost and pine needles mounded on top to a depth of about 30cms and set alight. The needles burn in a flash, producing a rich resinous smoke that supposedly imparts a unique flavour.
Firstly, the mussels were placed, hinges uppermost in a bowl, as I figured on using the juices, rather than lose them by employing the traditional plank cooking method. The bowl is a raku fired piece by Robin Welch, made many years ago when I was still teaching ceramics. I’d invited Robin out from the UK to do a workshop at the School of Art, and we had an exhibition of our joint efforts. Because of the open, coarse nature of the clay, the low firing method and the curved base of the bowl, this made Robin’s bowl the perfect receptacle for the rapid conflagration the mussels were to be subjected to.
Despite an intense heat, a few of the mussels hadn’t opened, so we popped them into the billy for a brief but rapid boil – just to be on the safe side. I’ll try Sheoak needles next time……Despite the mussels having to be cooked twice, they nevertheless retained a delicious smoky taste.Smoked Bruny Island mussels with wild samphire and foraged suburban lemons with fresh bread.
Now the story behind the serving platter……………………..another time!