April this year was spent hanging out in Albany, the town of my childhood. I grew up in this beautiful place, nestled on the wild and wooly south west coast of Western Australia. Albany is classified a city. It is about 400km south of Perth. It is a major regional centre and visitor hub but has managed to avoid taking the tacky tourist path and has mostly kept it’s sweet fisherman town vibe. My husband and I stayed right in town along the historic terraces that face out to Princess Royal Harbour.
The south west corner is full of wonderful memories and dearly treasured friends. It is also full of succulent seafood, local produce and wine. The air is fresh and salty. The harbour reflects the different colours and moods of the Albany sky. I love it. The ocean is a huge part of this town. You can smell it in the air and riddled along the coastline are so many secluded bays, beaches and coves to explore. I spent my childhood rock hopping, sailing, fishing, swimming and exploring.
Winters can be a bit long, wet and cold. The wind blows in straight off the Antarctic ocean and can rip through you. On days like these you are better off inside, curled up with a book in front of a roaring fire.
During our stay it was mostly grey days with the occasional glorious day of sunshine where the ocean sparkles.
It is different over here, rugged and beautiful. Hardy dune plants and huge granite boulders decorate the isolated coastline. You should visit this corner of the world at least once.
My parents live out of town on a private rural property. Mum has a flourishing garden with some produce and loads of basil.
I was busy or out of town each Saturday when the Albany Farmer’s Markets were on. These markets have been gathering fame for years and for good reason. It is a brilliant, genuine farmer’s market and should be on your itinerary. I have visited these markets many times before on earlier visits.
Since my last visit (in 2009), a new market has opened up called the Albany Boatshed Market. It is held every Sunday at the boat shed on Princess Royal Drive. This was a hop, skip and a jump down the hill from us. It is a small market with a smattering of produce, craft and food.
I bought a kilo of blue mussels. The mussels are farmed in the intertidal waters of Oyster Harbour which comes off King George Sound in Albany.
Mussels are marine bivalves that need to be treated with culinary respect. Mussels are best cooked the day of purchase.
They will keep a few days in the fridge and should be kept in a colander, covered with a damp tea-towel. Mussels are cooked while still alive and should be disturbed as little as possible until cooking. Clean them only when you are ready to cook.
Mussel shells should not be open prior to cooking. If any are open, tap the shell gently on the bench. If the mussel does not close up then this mussel should be discarded.
Mussels cook by steaming, not boiling. Be mindful of how much liquid you add. Mussels release water when cooking, enabling them to steam over heat, without the need to add liquid. I like to cook mine with a bit of white wine for flavour.
Clean mussels under running water, scrub gently and pull out the hairy beard with a few twist/tugs or cut with scissors. Mussels should have a pleasant fresh ocean smell not a strong fishy odour.
For my lovely bag full of fresh mussels, I wanted a dish with simple ingredients that allowed the mussels to be the star.
In olive oil – I fried up garlic, red chilli, red onion and diced tomato.
Once the onion was soft, in went a cup of white wine.
Once boiling, I placed the mussels in a single layer in the pan then tossed in a handful of fresh parsley and thyme (from my mum’s garden of course). The mussels will open once cooked. This takes about 3-4 minutes.
I served the mussels on a bed of spaghetti tossed with homemade basil pesto. The broth is divine and I spooned this over the dish. I would have preferred to cook alfresco at the beach with our little camp cooker, but it was raining at the time. Instead we had 3/4 of a bottle of white wine left and a very cosy couch.
I highly recommend a visit to Western Australia, particularly the south west corner. If you are up for an adventure, you can drive across from the Eastern States. It only took us 10 days and 5000km from our home in Stanthorpe, QLD.