"Few people think of Indian food when they think of mussels, but they are loved on the west coast and take spices and strong flavours really well. They are cooked in curries, stir-fried in dry masala, enveloped in pastries, baked in tarts, steamed in "jackets" made from rice, stuffed and deep-fried... this is a typical mussel recipe from Kerala and is one of my favourite ways of eating it.
These are a sort of Indian tapas, good to pick at with some drinks. You can serve them however you like, in a big pile sprinkled with coriander and some lemon wedges, on little toasts brushed with coriander oil, or on the half shell on a bed of curry leaves. I always have a full larder, so it is easy for me to add semolina for a crunchy finish, but you can leave it out and it will still be divine." ~ Anjum Anand.
500 g (1lb 2oz) mussels
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
6 g (1 rounded tsp) finely grated root ginger (peeled weight)
4 large garlic cloves, finely grated
3/4 tsp ground fennel seeds, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
1/4–1/2 tsp chilli (chili) powder, or to taste
3 Tbs vegetable oil
31/2–4 Tbs rice flour (I often grind rice if I don't have any in)
2 Tbs semolina (optional)
2 dried chillies
12 fresh curry leaves
Lemon wedges, to serve
Clean the mussels well by pulling off their rough “beards” and washing well in water; scrub them if they are muddy looking. If you find any which are open, tap them a couple of times on the sink: if they close, they are good to use; if they remain open, discard them.
Pour about 1cm (1/2 in) of water into a large saucepan. Salt it lightly and bring to a simmer. Add the mussels, cover and cook for 2–3 minutes or until they have opened. Take off the heat and uncover. Start taking out the mussels from the shells as soon as they are cool enough to handle and place into a bowl. Add a couple of spoons of the liquor from the pan and toss with the ginger, garlic, spices and the 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside for 10–20 minutes.
Clean out the saucepan, or heat up a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add half the oil. Add the rice flour to the mussels and toss well to coat. Place the semolina on a flat plate and toss the mussels in this. When the oil is hot, fry a mussel until crisp on both sides, flipping once. Taste for seasoning and spice. If you need to add more of either, this is the best time to do it. Add 1 dried chilli and half the curry leaves to the pan and follow, after 10 seconds, with half the mussels. They should not overcrowd the pan. I like to cook these over a medium-high heat, flipping once, until crisp on both sides, just a few minutes. Spoon out into an open bowl.
Repeat with the next batch, with the remaining dried chilli and curry leaves, and serve hot with some lemon wedges.
Credits: This is an edited extract from I Love India by Anjum Anand (published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $39.99 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: Photographer: ©Martin Poole