You like… mussels?
Depending on how adventurous your taste buds are, this dish just might put you in a state of bliss. This is my Aunt’s recipe which she has made for me many times over the years. A little while ago I recorded her making it and shared it on YouTube. I haven’t made these again until now. This time I’ve made some slight adjustments and written a recipe to share.
Fresh mussels are prepared and left to drain. Meanwhile, the stuffing is made and allowed to cool. Once cool, the mussels are stuffed, then steamed. They are eaten cold.
When my Aunt first made these in Australia, because of a language barrier, she used garam masala instead of the traditional pimento. I’ve only ever had them this way, and don’t know the pimento version, although I will give that a go one day; I suspect garam masala is better – as my mother has tried both and prefers this.
Remember to serve these cold, they will be MUCH nicer. They will keep for several days in the fridge.
When eating, it is a treat to lick the outsides of the shells – the flavour is amazing. If you have trouble getting all the meat from within the shell, use the other shell to scrape off those hard to get bits.
Buy some fresh mussels. This recipe is for about 30 mussels, which needs about 800g of onions.
You probably have: rice (short grain preferred but doesn’t matter), canola oil, salt, ground pepper. I no longer use canola oil (ever) as I consider it a poison. Substitute with ghee.
Make sure you have spices: garam masala & powdered cinnamon.
You’ll need a 1/2 cup of dried blackcurrants, but raisins will do.
Pine nuts are optional.
You’ll also need a colander for draining, and a large pot for cooking.
Take 30 or so fresh mussels, and discard the dead ones.
Put them in warm to hot water to soak for 20 minutes. They will die and the shells will open, and the barnacles on the surface will soften.
- Use a knife and cut through the posterior adductor muscle and it will open easily. Once you put the knife in, if you fish around, the mussel will resist and close on you so you have to be quick. After you open one, you’ll see where the muscle is and be quicker with the next one. See the picture I borrowed from the internet below for a guide:
- Open if fully and break the ligament or the “spine”. It will become floppy. Try not to completely separate the two shells but it won’t matter too much if you do.
- Rip off the beard with the shell closed, or open & slice off beard with a knife.
- Scrape off the barnacles with a knife.
- After all that, wash them all, (removes sand and barnacle debris) and place them facing down, or verticle, in a colander to drain for a few hours in the fridge (with a plate/bowl underneath of course).
The amounts can be adjusted fractionally (for next time) as a whole if you find the stuffing is too much or too little.
Soak 1/2 cup of blackcurrants (or raisins) in water and set aside for later.
Dice about 800 grams of onions and place in a saute pan. Add about a tablespoon of salt and 1/2 cup of water, cover, and gently cook for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it towards the end, if the water has evaporated further cooking may cause them to burn. We just want them to be soft and translucent and water evaporated. If you put too much water, you can drain it off at the end.
Add one cup of canola oil to the onions and begin to fry. It will seem like a lot, that’s ok, it will drain later when cooking. Drain the water from the blackcurrants and add to the onions.
- 3 heap teaspoons of garam masala (store-bought or make your own).
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Optional – add 1/2 cup of pine nuts at this point.
Add 3/4 cup short-grain rice (I’ve gone against the recipe and tried long-grain and it was also nice). Cook the rice in the oily mixture for a few minutes then turn off the heat.
It’s important to get the saltiness perfect for the final product. Testing for saltiness at this point is difficult as the mixture is warm (temperature affects flavour), and it hasn’t been stuffed with the salty mussels yet. Despite this, make an attempt at this point and adjust saltiness.
Once finished, you’ll need to taste a mussel while cold, and then add a sprinkle of extra salt to see if that’s better or worse. Make a note and adjust the initial tablespoon of salt (relative to all the other ingredients) for next time.
Ideally, we want it to have the perfect saltiness without needing an extra sprinkling when eating.
Once the stuffing has cooled to room temperature, take the mussels from the fridge and discard the pooled water in the bowl below the colander.
Take a large pot, and one by one, fill the mussels with stuffing using a spoon and close the shells. Don’t overfill with stuffing for two reasons: The rice may expand and burst out of the mussels when cooked. Also, you want to get a nice ratio of stuffing to mussel meat. Each mussel shell should easily close with the amount of stuffing you put in. Then place the mussels on the bottom of the pan, in one or up to two layers. Do not do three layers, I’ve been warned, but didn’t quite understand why – something about them getting too moist but I’m not sure how.
Pour 1 cup of water into the pot. Place a dinner plate over the mussels – apparently, this keeps them from opening, but I don’t see how; the “spines” are broken; I once forgot to put the plate on and it seemed to make no difference.
Cook on medium heat. The water will boil and steam the mussels and rice. Cook for 45 minutes. At some point, the water will evaporate before the 45 minutes, and it will begin to brown at the base (See photo at the top of the page). Add another cup of water and continue steaming. Towards the end, make sure the water has evaporated and allow some browning to occur. Cook longer than 45 minutes if necessary. This browning is essential. Make sure you don’t forget it and it doesn’t burn. Even if you accidentally go a little too far with the browning, it is still going to be nice – the mussels and the stuffing are unlikely to burn. When finished, gently toss the mussels (careful they don’t open and spill) to get the brown juices (Maillard reaction) to coat all the mussels on both sides. This will make them finger-licking delicious. Without this, they’re a bit disappointing.
You might also like to try my pastirma recipe.
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