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Chill Out With Seafood

Delicious and nutritious, New Zealand green-lipped mussels are an economic source of lean, high-quality protein. They’re available fresh in their shells from fish shops and supermarkets but mussel meat is also available frozen. A bag of mussels in your freezer means you have the base for quick and interesting delights that can be created in minutes. Fritters are always popular plus they are excellent in soups, pastas, risottos, pastas and pies.

I like to mince mussels for fritters and some soups to prevent them becoming chewy if accidentally over-cooked. Removing the little black tongue inside can also help with tenderness.

Frozen squid (calamari) is available as whole cleaned tubes or rings and again is relatively inexpensive. It needs either speedy cooking or to be cooked slowly enough for the squid to become tender again — but not in between. That is when it becomes really tough. Versatile squid is excellent in soups or chowders, in stir-fries, Mediterranean-style stews or salads and as with mussels, it is low in fat and kilojoules but a great source of the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.

There are many frozen prawn choices available these days including: large banana prawns from Australia with a light sweet flavour; prawn cutlets from Thailand that are fleshy and combine well with aromatic herbs and spices; cooked prawns — ideal for pizza toppings or salads. In New Zealand, prawns measure about six centimetres. Anything smaller we call shrimps.

All frozen seafood should be used immediately after thawing.

MUSSEL & FENNEL CHOWDER

A moreish light meal.

1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small (150g) fennel bulb, diced
1 red chilli, seeded and diced
2 cups whole kernel corn
300g orange kumara, peeled and diced
4 cups fish or chicken stock
16 (300g) frozen mussels, thawed and diced
1/4 cup coconut cream
Garnish: chopped fennel fronds
diced cooked bacon (optional)

Sauté the onion in the oil on low heat in a medium saucepan for 5 minutes. Add the fennel and chilli. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes, until softened. Add 1 1/2 cups of the corn, the kumara and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the kumara is soft.

Purée until smooth. Add the remaining corn then the mussels. Heat through gently. Stir in the coconut cream.

Garnish and serve with crusty bread. Serves 4.

SALT & PEPPER SQUID SALAD

Add some Vietnamese mint leaves to the salad, if available.

Salad: 2 large gherkins
1 long red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cups baby salad leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts
Squid: 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
400g squid tubes, thawed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon cornflour

Using a potato peeler make long slivers of gherkin. Toss in a bowl with the chilli, salad leaves, coriander leaves and peanuts. Chill while preparing the squid.

Dry-roast the peppercorns in a small heavy frying pan for a few seconds, until aromatic. Tip into a mortar and crush coarsely with a pestle. Stir in the salt.

Cut along one side of each squid tube and open it out flat. Remove any cartilage. With the tip of a small, sharp knife, score the inner side in a diamond pattern and then cut into 5cm squares. Pat the squid dry and dust with cornflour.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat until hot. Dust the squid with cornflour. Stir-fry half the squid for 1-2 minutes, until tender. Tip into a paper towel lined bowl, then cook the remaining squid. 

Combine the squid and sprinkle with 2-3 teaspoons of the salt and pepper mixture or to taste.

Divide the salad evenly between four serving plates and add the squid. Serve lemon wedges on the side. Serves 4 as a light meal.

TROPICAL PRAWNS

An easy family dinner. Thaw the frozen cooked prawns before using.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
1 green capsicum, seeded and diced
1 1/4 cups good tomato pasta sauce
1 cup cubed fresh or canned pineapple
freshly ground black pepper to taste
500g cooked shelled prawns

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and sauté on low heat, until tender. Add the celery, green capsicum, pasta sauce, pineapple and pepper, stir well, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the prawns, stir well, then heat through. Great served on rice or pasta. Serves 4.

CREAMY PAPRIKA MUSSELS

Remove the mussel tongues, if preferred.

3/4 cup dry white wine
1 each: shallot, garlic clove, diced
1 tablespoon each: butter, flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup milk
500g frozen mussels, halved and slightly thawed
1/2 cup cream
1 egg yolk

Combine the wine, shallot and garlic in a medium saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and paprika. Stir in the strained wine mixture and milk together with the mussels. Cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Whisk the cream and egg yolk together and stir into the sauce. Heat but do not boil. Great served over pasta garnished with chopped parsley. Serves 4.