Wintertime in Melbourne means sensational local mussels. At Union Dining, we get our mussels from Portalington and I love how plump and sweet they are. Cooking mussels is quite simple. Just remember to always use the freshest possible – buy them at the market the day you want to cook them.

There's a little preparation needed for this recipe, but it's worth it. Spend a lazy afternoon at home with friends and cook this recipe together before sitting down around the bowl slurping away with a nice baguette to dip into the sauce. Don’t forget to have a glass of local Chardonnay – perhaps one from TarraWarra Estate in the Yarra Valley – on hand to enjoy with them.


Nicky Riemer’s Mussels with Amontillado Sherry and Fennel

Serves 4 people

2kg cleaned black mussels (Victorian are the best!)
100ml dry white wine
150ml Amontillado Spanish sherry (or dry white sherry)
150ml pouring cream
5 small red shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 long red chilli, sliced (with seeds)
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 small fennel bulbs with tops roughly sliced
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

  1. In a medium saucepan, sweat the shallots, garlic and fennel in a small amount of oil until soft but with no colour.

  2. Increase the heat to high, add the fennel seeds and stir for 1 minute. Make sure the saucepan is very hot and then add the mussels and white wine, cover with a tight fitting lid and shake the pot a couple of times. Leave it for 3 minutes, shake again and check if mussels are opening. As soon as the mussels are open, remove them with a slotted spoon into a bowl on the side, but keep all the liquid and vegetables in the saucepan.

  3. Now add the chilli, sherry and cream to the saucepan and keep on a moderate heat and reduce the liquid in the pot by half, this should only take a few minutes. The ingredients in the pot should have a sauce-like consistency.

  4. Return the mussels to the pot and add the chopped parsley with some salt and pepper, stir well and serve immediately.

  5. Even better with some crunchy toasted baguette on the side!