The Cape West Coast has some of the world’s best seafood on offer – especially mussels. One of the tastiest kinds of ocean bounty to cook with, mussels are especially wonderful to use as they are one of the most sustainable seafoods on the planet. Able to be paired with just about anything, the mussel has the perfect absorbency for generous lashings of garlic butter, cream or wine, and makes for a stylishly simple meal every time. To add to their appeal, mussels are known to thrive around a certain part of this unique coastline – Saldanha Bay, and so buying fresh, locally-produced seafood has never been easier!
The town of Saldanha Bay, a thriving community clustered around the picturesque natural harbour, has a large emphasis on the gathering and exportation of the Mediterranean or Blue Mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis). While not indigenous to South African shores, this mussel is one of the few ‘aliens’ that actually gives back to it’s adopted environment – mussels are a natural water purifier. In Saldanha, the Blue Mussel is farmed on wooden rafts that stand out in the bay and also provide nesting spots for various sea birds such as the African Black Oystercatcher. In order to reduce any kind of carbon footprint, mussel farms such as BLUE OCEAN MUSSELS are sure to adhere to the guidelines of the South African Mollusc & Shellfish Monitoring and Control Program. This attention to sustainability and ethical farming practices by local businesses is one of the reasons why the Blue Mussel stays firmly on SASSI‘s green list.
Richly steeped in history too, Saldanha Bay is named after António de Saldanha, a Portuguese sea captain who paid a visit to South Africa in 1503. Originally supposed to be the title of what we now refer to as Table Bay, in 1601 the name of Saldanha was transferred up the coast and is now more synonymous with Saldanha Steel – the only environmentally-friendly steel plant in South Africa.
Not only a hive of oceanic industry, Saldanha is also a water-sport enthusiasts’ dream, a shopper’s delight (West Coast Mall is situated in nearby Vredenburg) and a traveller’s sanctuary – even if just for a relaxing weekend away.
The recently redone Protea Hotel by Marriott® Saldanha Bay offers uninterrupted ocean views, an array of facilities, its own slipway and jetty for seagoing adventures as well as a sparkling pool for those preferring to take things slowly. Their Mussel Cracker Restaurant has a Seafood Platter DEAL with Pongraz
To really get away from it all there is BLUE BAY LODGE, a beautifully gabled homestead right on the beach. In their own Blue Bay Cafe, they offer West Coast Mussels in two tempting ways as well as locally-farmed baby cob – here it’s all about using local ingredients and sustainable produce. Enjoy the Saldanha mussels DEAL at Blue Bay Lodge. Now served with a glass of Darling Cellars wine!
Situated a mere 80 minutes drive from Cape Town, Saldanha Bay is truly breathtaking in the contrasting textures of ocean, beach and sky that is endemic to the West Coast. Whales often take the time to bask in the bay on their way down south to Hermanus and in the springtime the surrounding veld comes alive with wildflowers.
To celebrate the colourful heritage of Saldanha Bay, a heavily-laden tapas table featuring Portuguese chicken livers and Spanish paella with mussels fresh from the ocean is one of the most delicious spreads to feature on any lazy lunchtime table. Embrace the Mediterranean climate, the azure waters and the warm sunshine by heading outdoors to eat. Cooked over the coals, the mussels take on a smokier, full-bodied flavour that perfectly pairs with a crisp sauvignon blanc or a glass of citrusy homemade sangria.
Paella with Blue Mussels
You will need:
• 1kg fresh Mediterrean or Blue mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
• 500g sustainable (farmed) prawn tails, shells intact • 500g baby squid heads and tentacles
• 300g deboned chicken thigh fillets, roughly chopped
• 300g pork rashers, roughly chopped
• 3 bell peppers (any colours will do), diced
• 3 chillies, seeds optional
• 2 brown onions, diced
• 1 litre chicken stock
• 250ml dry white wine
• extra virgin olive oil
• 800g arborio rice
• 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
• 1T turmeric
• 2T Spanish smoked paprika
• coarse ground sea salt & black pepper
• a handful of fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
• lemon wedges
Place a wide and shallow paella pan or large wok over hot coals. In a bowl,
combine the chicken and pork with 1T of the smoked paprika and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Add the meat to the pan and brown. Add the onion, garlic, peppers and chillies and stir for a minute, allowing the vegetables to soften slightly. Add the rice and chicken stock to deglaze the pan, stirring continuously. Add the rest of the dried spices and the squid and cook until the rice is plump and al dente. Finally, scatter the prawn tails and mussels around the pan, following with the white wine, and cook until the prawns are pink and the mussels have steamed open. Discarding any mussels that have failed to open, season the paella with salt and pepper and scatter over the fresh parsley.
Best enjoyed with lots of lemon wedges, good friends and a West Coast sunset!
For more awesome Culture and Foodie experiences get roadtripping on the West Coast Way Routes.
“Predominantly a literary soul, Georgia East is also a self-confessed foodie fiend. Obsessed with buying old forks and able to eat her own weight in dim sum, she spends most of her time as a freelance writer, food stylist and photographer. Starting her blog Fortunate Ones a year ago has led to various tasty experiences which include recipe creation, set design for her food imagery and a newly-discovered passion for taking as many photographs as humanly possible on her Nikon. After spending most of her childhood swimming in the Berg river and avoiding bokkoms, Georgia has retained her love for the Cape West Coast while rediscovering the traditional flavours endemic to the coastline.”