We like mussels at our house.... a budget-conscious and delicious buy from Monterey Fish. Plus the quick prep makes for an easy dinner. At home in California, foraging for Mussels is a no-no. Quarantine signs warn of contamination and unhealthy waters.

For the first time in my life, we got to harvest our own mussels off the shore! We were recently in Golden Bay, New Zealand - tucked into the lightly populated shores on the gorgeous South Island, the waters are clean and harvesting seafood from the beaches is just fine.

We heard that the tides were low at ten am, so off we set with a few buckets in hand. Within 15 minutes we had plenty of mussels to cook up.

In trying to keep our meal as simple and local as possible, we threw together an easy spaghetti with mussels. We borrowed a few spices from our neighbor, harvested some herbs from the garden there, then walked to the nearby market and bought some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, local onions, butter, olive oil, sea salt, and pasta.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds mussels
  • 1 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • pinch of red pepper flakes or chili powder
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • handful of chopped parsley and/or parsley blossoms if available
  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine

Clean and de-beard mussels. (Our harvested mussels took a lot more prep than the ones we buy at Monterey Fish. Paul scrubbed a multitude of barnacles from the shells. He gave the mussels numerous baths in fresh water. Then he and Lilah removed the beards.)

Start to heat a large stock pot of water for cooking pasta.

Warm 4-6 low soup bowls.

Get another large pot ready in which to cook the mussels. Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, chili, and fennel seeds. Cook for just a few minutes until garlic is tender.

(Put pasta on to cook. Strain when done and put equal servings into 4-6 warmed low/soup bowls.)

Add white wine to the mussel pot and simmer for about 6 -8 minutes until reduced by half.

Add mussels and thyme sprigs to the pot. Cover. Steam for about 5 minutes until mussels have opened. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon.

Put an equal amount of mussels on top of each serving of pasta.

Quickly strain mussel cooking liquid. Combine 1 cup of cooking liquid with 1/4 cup of warm heavy cream. ( Save the extra cooking liquid as stock for your next risotto or seafood stew.) Whisk cream to blend and add salt and pepper to taste. (Note that freshly harvested mussels can be quite salty and don’t need much/if any added salt.)

Distribute the sauce evenly over each bowl of pasta and mussels. Generously sprinkle fresh herbs/blossoms and plenty of fresh ground pepper. Eat and enjoy!

serves 4 as main/ 6 as appetizer

Usually we have a crab fest for Christmas dinner, though I think a big bowl of steaming mussels could be a festive holiday supper!


  1. mussels are fabulous! I always feel great after them...recently enjoyed them w a white wine & stilton broth - beautiful is nz!? Dayle @

  2. lovely erin,
    i almost cried when i saw the green napkin underneath the bowl. it's like i'm there with you! and what an amazing shot of the water.

    i do love all your adventures. i can't believe you harvested your own mussels. that kitchen looks like it's in a restaurant. what a treat to get a yummy supper email today.
    love, p

  3. Phyllis,
    I do love that napkin! Thank you! It has been on quite a journey so far.
    Wish I could have shared the mussels with you guys... It is such a treat to harvest our own seafood. We've eaten clams and oysters from the shore too. Decadent.

  4. Your trek sounds really cool. Your pictures are great. You should share them over at

  5. Dayle - glad to hear you are a mussel fan too. Stilton broth - wow... sounds really interesting. Cheers:)

    Thanks Dustin! I'll check out dishfolio:)

  6. What a perfect day. I am dreaming often of New Zealand lately. I'm a big mussel fan so perhaps my cravings are taking my mind away with them. Lovely post!

  7. I love this post. Great work making the cooking a family event.

  8. How incredible is it to be able to gather your own shellfish and then have an incredible assortment of NZ Sauv Blancs to choose from? So envious!
    The L.A. news showed a earthquake in NZ, and I immediately thought of you. I hope it didn't get in the way of your activities.

  9. thanks for sharing.

  10. Special occasions call for something special, and these will fit the bill at our anniversary party! Thanks for the easy recipe.


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