Cook Great Food Anywhere

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Episode 1: steamed mussels in white wine and garlic

In early July, I received an invitation to join some friends on a boating trip to Skagen, (historically) the seafood capital of Denmark. The trip offered many opportunities for off-grid cooking, culminating in a delicious solar-cooked a meal of mussels in white wine and garlic. In today’s companion post, I will share this recipe along with some tips and tricks for solar cooking seafood like a pro!

As I received the invitation on very short notice, the trip was completely unplanned from my side and all the videos were equally spontaneous. This also meant I didn’t get any good opportunities to warm up my voice. Throughout this episode, I’m speaking with my “head voice”, which sounds tenser and less authoritative than the “chest voice” I use in the trailer and the voiceover segments. I’ll make sure to improve on that for future episodes!

Nevertheless, I’m confident you’ll still find it interesting. Enjoy!

Get straight to the point:

About Skagen, Denmark

Skagen has traditionally been the seafood capital of Denmark and a vacation destination for the affluent. Commercial fishing vessels still land here and sell their catch, but due to overfishing, the Kattegat and Skagerrak seas aren’t as bountiful as they once were.

There is a silver lining, though – the seas outside Skagen’s coast (yes, there are 2 – one on each side of town) are far less polluted than the nearby Baltic sea. This makes it much safer to eat the seafood, any fish you catch and any seaweed you harvest.

If you buy seafood at the harbor or eat at one of the many seafood restaurants, you should still pay extra attention to the species and origins of the available fish. Some shops will sell endangered species of fish, while others may sell seafood imported from as far away as Japan. If you want to buy good quality mussels, look for sustainably farmed ones from Denmark, Norway or Sweden.

Solar cooking recipe: Steamed Mussels in white wine and garlic

This is a solar cooking recipe, but it can be adapted to cooking on gas, hydrogen, biofuel or electric stoves. 

The mussels were purchased from 
Aavangs Fiskehus at Skagen Harbour. This was the only place at the harbor that sold sustainably farmed local mussels on the day the video was filmed.

Ingredients

Sustainably farmed fresh mussels/clams (cleaned)
White wine 
Butter or olive oil 
Peeled garlic cloves 

Step 1. Heat up the pan and add the butter

Step 2. Add the peeled garlic cloves to the hot butter and fry, stirring occasionally 

Step 3. Add the mussels/clams to the garlic butter. Top up with white wine and replace the lid.

Step 4. Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat (add 3-5 minutes to the cooking time if the sun is obscured by haze). Resist the urge to remove the lid and check on the mussels.

Step 5. Serve the mussels on their own or with a side of bread (or if you are feeling adventurous – freshly steamed seaweed) to mop up the juices. Enjoy! 

Note: If cooking mussels in a closed solar cooker (eg. a box or vacuum tube cooker), the procedure is slightly different. Add the mussels and garlic to a container that fits in your cooker (or directly in the tray if using a small vacuum tube cooker). Top up with white wine. 1/3 – 1/2 of the way up is enough – you don’t need to cover them. Place the container in the solar cooker and cook for 30-60 minutes in a vacuum tube cooker or 1-2 hours in a box cooker.

Remember to avoid littering in the outdoors – take your trash with you and recycle it.

Cooking with edible seaweed

Seaweed is a truly undervalued resource. It grows quickly and abundantly in most waterways and can be readily harvested and used in salads, stocks, seafood dishes and more. Seaweed is often dried and used as a thickening or gelling agent (eg. carrageenan, agar-agar). It is also rich in nutrients, dietary fiber (polysaccharides), and healthy fats.

Here are some of the ways you can include edible seaweed in your cooking:

  • Use dried kelp and other seaweeds to make a nourishing vegetarian stock
  • Fry thin sheets of seaweed to make a tasty snack
  • Add blanched seaweed to salads, soups, and woks
  • Pickle blanched, chopped seaweed and serve as a side
  • Add seaweed instead of salt when steaming or boiling potatoes

Warning! Never eat seaweed from stagnant pools of water, during algal blooms or from heavily polluted waterways such as the Baltic Sea.

Important! Dry your harvested seaweed or wash it in freshwater before cooking. Washing it in freshwater removes some of the polysaccharides from the surface, which could otherwise bind with the cooking liquid, creating a thin, slimy layer on the seaweed. This slime is harmless (and usually tasteless), but can be unpleasant if you are not expecting it.

Tips for solar cooking seafood

Although we only cooked mussels in this video, you can readily cook any kind of seafood with a solar cooker – fish, shellfish, seaweeds.

Here are a few tips to help you get great results:

  • Always use fresh, healthy seafood from a reputable source (or catch/pick it yourself)
  • Avoid seafood that comes from heavily polluted waters
  • Choose a reliable solar cooker that works under the weather conditions in your area
  • If you are unsure of how to tell if your seafood is ready, use a thermometer to ensure the internal temperature is above 60°C (140°F).
  • If you are cooking smaller fish it may be preferable to debone them once they are cooked. It will be easier to separate the meat from the bone

There’s more where that came from

In today’s episode, I cooked mussels with white wine and garlic on the beach. Yet Skagen still offered plenty of opportunities for off-grid cooking and solar cooking can take many forms. Over the coming weeks, I will post more videos and material from the trip. Stay tuned!

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6 Comments

  1. Adyns68 July 24, 2019

    Hi Sara

    I have truly enjoyed the post, I will definitely follow up with the video.

    I have a question when you say that it is sun cooked, is it because the cooker is powered by the sun? or that the food is directly in contact with the sun to be cooked.

    I like the recipe and I am sure it will taste perfectly with some fries. I have never tasted any seaweed, so I am not really sure where to get some but I hope to taste that one day.

    `Thanks for sharing 

    • Sunchef Sara July 27, 2019 — Post Author

      Hi Adyns68,

      Thank you for your kind words. It’s great to hear you enjoyed the post!

      The solar cooker used in this video works by concentrating sunlight into a large focal point that can reach over 250°C (482°F). It’s like the pan is enclosed in a ball of heat that turns on instantly when you aim it at the sun . You’ll be able to feel it with your hand. 

      If you can’t get wild seaweed, you can buy commercially farmed seaweed in Japanese and other Asian food stores. They are often labelled “wakame”, “konbu”, “nori”, “arame”, etc. You can also find diet “noodles” or diet rice made from “shiritaki”. These noodles are made from a seaweed that is very low in calories. So, seaweed is a very ubiquitous product. We just don’t think about it much.

      I will be experimenting with solar-cooked fries soon. If that goes well, I might make solar-cooked fries one day.

      Sunny regards,
      Sunchef Sara

  2. Katya July 24, 2019

    But wait, what is a solar cooker? It sounds so interesting and mad-scientist type of thing that I absolutely would love to try! Can you please explain it to me where to buy a sun cooker and how does it work? I also travel a lot and using solar power to prepare food sounds pretty amazing 🙂

    Thanks,

    Katya

    • Sunchef Sara July 24, 2019 — Post Author

      Hi Katya,

      Having the right kind of solar cooker can be super helpful when you’re traveling.

      I will post some more information about solar cookers soon, along with some advice and reviews of my preferred brands. In the meantime, bear with me and I’ll do my best to answer your question.

      There are many places where you can buy solar cookers, but you can also build them yourself. If you want to learn more, the solar cooking wiki is a good place to start: https://solarcooking.fandom.com/wiki/Solar_Cooking_Wiki_(Home). They also provide a list of retailers and manufacturers here: https://solarcooking.fandom.co

      Which country do you live in?

  3. Daniella July 24, 2019

    Hi Sara,

    This is the first time I read about solar cookers, this is something I need to buy because I live near the sea and I spend a lot of time there especially in the summer. I love mussels and I am going to try this recipe this weekend. One question, please. 

    Does the solar cooker withstand seawater? I mean, won’t it get rust after a while?

    Awesome website, I have bookmarked it so I can read more of your articles!

    Thank you for this excellent post and looking forward to seeing other recipes and tips. 

    • Sunchef Sara July 25, 2019 — Post Author

      I’m happy to hear you like the site and enjoyed the post. Solar cookers are quite versatile. In summer since they can help keep your home cool by reducing the times you need to use the regular stove.

      In the video I use the SUNplicity solar cooker, which is very sturdy. It’s made of stainless steel and aluminum. If you rinse it every once in a while with freshwater, it should be fine – even if it does get exposed to seawater.

      There are many types of solar cooker. Some are made of plastic, while others are made of durable metals. The cheap ones may have parts that are susceptible to rust while the more expensive ones are usually stainless and resistant to rust.

      I will be posting more about solar cookers soon, but in the meantime, you can find a local vendor or manufacturer through Solar Cookers International:
      https://solarcooking.fandom.com/wiki/Category:Manufacturers_and_vendors.

      Best of luck with the mussels recipe!

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