Curry leaf mussels and fries
This is such a simple, clever and inspired way to cook mussels - an exotic version of moules marinières which I couldn't resist as I love curry leaves too.
It comes from Ed Smith's book Crave which lists recipes that are likely to appeal depending on the mood you're in and the sort of flavours you're craving at any particular moment - fresh and fragrant, for example or rich and savoury.
Ed writes: Curry leaves tempering in hot oil is a top-five kitchen smell; my tastebuds become fully activated upon catching a whiff. Indeed, such is their instantly satisfying effect, it’s worth buying a packet or two if ever you see them – like chillies they store well in the freezer (and can be used straight from frozen).
Mussels in a creamy sauce carry the aroma particularly well. As it happens, they cook almost as quickly as the leaves, so this works well as a rapid response to a craving for spice. You could obviously drag bread through that sauce, but on this occasion I think a side of salty French fries works best (frozen fries for oven baking are perfect).
Serves 4 as a main course
1.5kg (6½ cups) mussels
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion or shallot, finely sliced
30g (1oz) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into fine matchsticks
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
25–30 curry leaves (2 full sprigs)
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder
1 heaped tbsp tomato purée (paste)
100ml (scant ½ cup) cold water
300ml (1¼ cups + 1 tbsp) double (heavy) cream
Pinch flaky sea salt
Oven-baked French fries, to serve.
Purge (clean) the mussels by leaving them to soak in cold water for 20 minutes, lifting them out from the bowl after 10 minutes, discarding the dirty, gritty water and refilling it with cold water (and the mussels). Repeat this action 5 minutes later, and then again. Keep the bowl in the fridge during this time, save for the last soak, when you should pull out any straggly beards from the mussels (easier while they’re still under water). Discard any mussels that remain open when tapped. This can be done in advance, though you must store the mussels in the fridge until needed.
Cook your fries – I find they usually need a few minutes longer than the packet suggests.
When the fries are nearly done, choose a wide saucepan or wok with a lid that will fit the mussels in no more than three layers. Place this on a medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Let this warm for 30 seconds before adding the onions, ginger, a pinch of salt, the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent the onions or leaves burning. Add the garlic and, 30 seconds later, the spices. Cook these for a minute, stirring frequently, then add the tomato purée.
After 1 minute more, increase the heat to high then add the water, cream and mussels. Stir the contents thoroughly, place the lid on top and cook for 3 minutes, shaking once or twice. If the mussels have not fully opened after that time, use a spoon to scoop them from the bottom of the pan to the top (so as to swap open with closed) remove from the heat but put the lid back on top for a further minute, leaving the remaining mussels to steam open. Discard any that refuse to open.
Ladle into bowls, ensuring everyone has a fair share of the glossy, fragrant and rust-coloured sauce, with piles of well-salted fries nearby.
What to drink: I'd really fancy a dry riesling with this but a crisp dry white like picpoul would also work as it does with other mussel dishes or, if you prefer a beer, a lager.
Extracted from CRAVE: Recipes arranged by flavour, to suit your mood and appetite by Ed Smith (Quadrille, £25). Photography: Sam A. Harris
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