Who doesn’t love mussels? A delectable adornment to any paella and a staple at any fish restaurant worth its salt (or, indeed, its shellfish), mussels have certainly earned their place in the fishy hall of fame. And mussels are at their best before those balmy summer months kick in; so we’d advise hastening them into the pot with all possible speed.
But for all their myriad delicious qualities, we know that mussels can be a tricky dish not only to get right — but to even approach in the first place. They’re not often found in domestic kitchens, after all, but rather at a fish-oriented restaurant under the expert hands of a professional chef.
Luckily, however, an expert chef is on hand to provide sage wisdom when it comes to mussel preparation. Will Bowlby is co-founder and co-owner of Kricket: the phenomenally successful Indian-inspired restaurant that began its career in a shipping container at Pop Brixton. Now with restaurants in Soho, Brixton and White City, it’s one of London’s hottest spots: and its mussels aren’t too bad, either.
“I personally love [mussels], and think they lend themselves really well to Indian-inspired cooking,” says Bowlby. “They’re great in curries and broths, and they soak up lots of flavour. They’re [also] incredibly good value and a healthy source of protein, and I think they’re a great option for people who want to eat more sustainable seafood.”
And there are exciting mussel plans afoot for Kricket. “I’m currently testing out a load of mussel recipes for when we re-open the restaurants on 18th May,” Bowlby explains. Look our for our stuffed mussel papads or British seafood Bengali broth.”
Well, we certainly can’t wait: but don’t worry, you don’t have to wait till 18th May to indulge in all things mussels. Bowlby has shared two of his favourite mussel recipes with us; so we’d strongly recommend flexing your cooking muscles (or should that be mussels?) and giving them a go.
For the ultimate delectable meal, opt for the Goan Fish Curry with Mussels
“This is my updated take on the traditional Goan Fish Curry, with a slightly tangier taste and a thicker sauce consistency,” says Bowlby. “You can use any firm white fish or shellfish you like, but here we find hake holds its shape rather well and the mussels are strong enough to take on the robust flavours of the sauce. If you prefer a runnier sauce, just add water or fish stock.”
- 300 g (101⁄2 oz) hake fillets, cut into chunks
- 200 g (7 oz) mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- a generous splash of dry white wine
- a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to serve
For the masala:
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 200 g (7 oz) fresh or frozen grated coconut
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Ginger & Garlic Paste
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) fish stock
- 100 g (31⁄2 oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) tamarind paste
- caster sugar, to taste
- sea salt, to taste
1. Begin by making the masala. Toast the fenugreek, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds with the fresh coconut in a dry frying pan (skillet). Keep the spices moving constantly over the heat for 30 seconds or so, and until the coconut takes on a light brown colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then blitz in a food processor or blender to a fine paste.
2. Heat the oil in a deep pan, add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the spice powder and cook over a low heat for a further 5 minutes before stirring in the turmeric. Cover and cook for further 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the fish stock, bring to the boil, then add the tamarind paste. Season to taste with the sugar and salt, then cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the hake to the sauce, re-cover and cook gently for 3–4 minutes until the fish flakes easily.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the mussels by washing them thoroughly. Heat a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the wine. Quickly add the mussels, cover tightly with the lid, and cook for about 4 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed.
5. Add the mussels to the masala sauce and mix thoroughly, cooking for a few more minutes. To serve, spoon the seafood into bowls and top with fresh coriander.
Or for a mouth-watering feast, try your hand at the Karnatakan Mussels
“On a food trip to Mumbai I discovered a seafood restaurant called Jai Hind (Lunch Home), where I tasted some of the best seafood I’ve had in the city to date,” Bowlby enthuses. “The restaurant showcased regional seafood cooking from places like Karnataka on the west coast of India. I ate a clam dish there, and loved it so much I identified all the ingredients and recreated it with mussels as soon as I got home.”
- 1kg (2lb 3 oz) fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 6 tablespoons dry white wine
- a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
- a generous squeeze of lime juice, to drizzle
For the masala:
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
- a large handful of fresh curry leaves
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 200g (7 oz) fresh or frozen grated coconut
- 2 thumb-size pieces of fresh ginger root, grated
- 3 green chillies, finely chopped
- sea salt, to taste
1. First make the masala. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan (skillet) until hot, then add the mustard seeds and heat for 30 seconds or so until they start to splutter. Add the curry leaves, reduce the heat to low and add the diced onions. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent but without any colour.
2. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, coconut, ginger and green chillies and season to taste with salt. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Continue to simmer on a low heat while you prepare the mussels.
3. Wash the mussels thoroughly and discard any that remain open when you tap them. Heat up a large heavy-based saucepan and add the wine. Let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the mussels. Cover tightly with a lid, and cook for about 4 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed. Stir in the masala making sure the mussels are fully coated in all the spices.
4. To serve, spoon the mussels into 4 bowls and garnish with fresh coriander and lime juice to finish. Serve straight away.
Have we whetted your appetite for shellfish? Have a look at our recipe of the week: James Martin’s Lobster & Steak with Haggis Butter…
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.