SAFFRON RISOTTO WITH MUSSELS (Risu cu Zaffaranu e Cozzuli is the Sicilian, Riso con Zafferano e Cozze is the Italian)

Green lipped mussels kept fresh and alive under jets of sea water

I have just returned from a two week stay in the North Island of New Zealand where there seemed to be a public awareness about sustainable fish and sustainable fishing and farming practices. Seafood seemed plentiful and well priced and I found fish sellers that clearly state their support for sustainable fish species and how they only procure stocks from sustainable resources. There was even information on restaurant menus such as line caught snapper, or this fish was farmed in a sustainable way.

 

During my stay I ate many varieties of fish that I had not eaten before – I loved it all.

Green lipped mussels (such as the ones in the photo from The Fish Market in Auckland) were around $3.50 per kilo; I did not spot any on restaurant menus, but maybe this is because they mussels are so common. While I was in New Zealand I stayed in serviced apartments (not that I did much cooking), and on one occasion I bought some and steamed them lightly (just enough to open them) and enjoyed them with some lemon juice.

Green lipped mussel farming in New Zealand is sustainable; the government conducts research and careful monitoring into selective breeding, farming and harvesting methods.

A good way to eat mussels (any type) is with rice. Saffron is used in Sicilian cooking and in this recipe, the rice is simmered in fish stock – the more traditional and older way to cook risotto in Sicily.

INGREDIENTS 
rice, 2 cups of aborio or vialone
fish stock, 6-7 cups
saffron threads, ½-1 small teaspoon
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
garlic cloves, 2 chopped finely
mussels, 2 k,
wine, ½ cup, dry white
parsley, ½ cup chopped finely
PROCESSES
Clean the mussels by rubbing them against each other in cold water(or use a plastic scourer). Pull the beards sharply towards the pointy end of the shell.
Heat the oil in a large pan (which can be used to cook both the mussels and the rice), add the garlic and soften.
Add the mussels and the parsley, toss them around in the hot pan, add a splash of wine, cover and cook until they open (about 4-6 minutes). Do not discard any mussels that don’t open – they just need more cooking.
Remove the mussels from the saucepan. Take out half of the mussels from their shells – the mussels with their shells will be used for decoration on top of the rice.
Add about 5 cups of the fish stock and saffron to the same pan and when it reaches boiling point add the rice.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over moderate heat, stirring now and again to ensure that the rice does not stick and the stock has been absorbed.
Taste the rice and season with salt if necessary. Add more stock or wine if needed – the rice is done when it’s al dente – just tender, but resistance can still be felt when you bite into it. (The rice will continue to soften).
Stir into the rice the shelled mussels. Place the mussels with the shells on top of the hot rice or gently fold them through the top layer of the hot rice (Italians are never fussy about eating food which is not piping hot).
Leave to rest for a few minutes for the flavours to meld before serving (the rice will also continue to cook and soften slightly).
Sustainable fish display in Auckland Fish Market

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8 thoughts on “SAFFRON RISOTTO WITH MUSSELS (Risu cu Zaffaranu e Cozzuli is the Sicilian, Riso con Zafferano e Cozze is the Italian)”

  1. At this time of year they have fresh mussels from Portarlington for sale at the williamstown pier on sunday mornings. So if you decide to have a plate of very fresh mussels for sunday lunch…its a good spot to go for a morning coffee, buy the mussels and go home and cook them! I also go to Conways in Footscray they also have amazing seafood. Love your blog too.
    Chris.

  2. Da una isolana a un’altra…complimenti per questo Blog, molto interessante! Io sono sarda, vivo in Idaho ma sto tornando in Sardegna, causa nostalgia…
    Ora leggo i tuoi racconti.
    Ps: la mia amica siciliana ha aperto un Italian market and Deli che si chiama Rosa’s. Se vai su google lo trovi a Post Falls, Idaho.

  3. Yes, I know about the mussels from Portalington because I have bought them there at odd times but I did not know about the ones at Williamstown and will definitely go there. Sometimes when mussels are very fresh you can hear them gurgle!
    I will also try Conways in Footscray. Thank you for that.

    I am glad you like the blog. I have a book on Sicilian Seafood that will be published this year.

  4. Mussels: Gem Pier Williamstown. 10.30am sunday until sold out. I think they come from Portarlington but not sure. Boat is called SeaBounty.

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