Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Mussel Safari at Lysekil
The West Coast of Sweden Tourist board very kindly took me on a Mussel Safari off the coast of Lysekil along with five of Sweden’s top food bloggers. So not only did I get to see more of the idyllic Swedish coastline, but I also got to eat fantastic shellfish and meet some inspiring people.
The West Coast of Sweden’s defining characteristic is its relationship with the chilly North Sea which creates the insane weather that Gothenburg is blessed with and nourishes the seafood that graces the icy counters of the feskekorka. It’s the reason why Gothenburg has five Michelin starred restaurants and why this rocky coastline is such a rewarding place to indulge in a shellfish safari.
After an overnight stay in the seaside town of Lysekil, our mussel safari started with a mist shrouded chug out to sea guided by mussel-men Lars Marstone and Adriaan van Der Plasse. Because I was the only non-Swede I stood at the back and admired their nautical roll-necks and the handsome shoreline views.
Adriaan explained to me, in English, that the mussels take around two years to grow to maturity and thrive in the nutrient rich waters. They use the tried and tested nylon stocking technique where the mussel seeds are sown in a nylon sheath and then dangled off rafts into the sea. The mussels then grow on the rope itself before their gonads reach maturity. The diagram below from The Fish Site illustrates the process well.
Adriaan has been growing mussels all around the world, from Chile to Holland, for an eternity, so he knows what he’s talking about. The mussels we saw were six-month-old mini mussels that were still doing their GCSEs. His favourite way of eating his catch is to maintain their flavour by simply steaming them and then gorging on their seasoned naked flesh. No fancy sauces. No Thai green curry. No white wine and garlic. And definitely no cream.
Adriaan also farms oysters in the same bay. He proudly explained that because of the ferociously cold winter this year’s natives are some of the finest he’s ever eaten. He lost 80% of his crop, which wasn’t insured, thanks to the two-mete layer of ice that covered the sea. But, as if by following a combination of Pareto and Darwin’s theories, the 20% that survived are stunningly tasty as I found out back on dry land.
Sadly we didn’t get to try any mussels or oysters on board the boat on this particular trip. For paying punters Adriaan will swallow dive into the sea and return like a rugged mermaid clutching a bounty of be-shelled protein before cooking it there and then for you on the deck. In the bastardised words of Greg Wallace, “Cooking doesn’t get much fresher than this”.
Unfortunately, we had to wait till we were back in Lysekil before we could taste the mussels which were served in a creamy soup that was laden with lip smacking garlic. But it was worth the wait. As was the sight of a market dripping with crayfish and the black gold of the sea...
I trundled back down the coast to Gothenburg with my stomach full of mussels and my head jammed full of fishy facts whilst trying to persuade the tourist board to send me on one of their four other Shellfish Safaris.
You can find out more about going on a Lobster, Crayfish, Prawn, Mussel or Oyster Safari here or if you’re keen to book a trip then take a gander here.
And whilst we are on the subject of “Big Fives”, you should check out my “fem” new favourite Swedish food bloggers who I met on this trip...
Linnea's beautiful blog is soon to become a book about making the most of your pantry, Swedish style!
Kinna is a bit of a social media guru and has an excellent food blog that's good for when you want to practice your Swedish
Emma's Kök is full of stunning photographs of food that is designed to be swift and tasty
Kalasgott has quickly become one of my favourites - from the photos to the charming design. It also helps that Jenny is lots of fun. It's also got a nifty feature that lets your translate the text into English.
I found a kindred spirit in Katja who cooks all her food in a coffee pot - look out for a forthcoming post about an unusual way of cooking mussel soup