Thursday, 27 March 2014

Asian mussels

An age-old adage states that mussels and oysters should only been eaten during months that have letter "R" in them. According to some this instruction can be traced to ancient Latin, but in 1599 at latest it was documented in "Dyets Dry Dinner",  a cookery book by an Englishman called Henry Butte.

There are many reasons given for this. One is the warmer temperatures of the summer months, which, before the Phillips Whirpool era would have been a hazardous combination with fresh seafood. The warmer conditions also apparently increase the toxins in the waters where those delectable delicacies reside and dine themselves. Especially for oysters summer months also the season of procreation so most of their energy is taken up by the starting the family-business (well, we all know how exhausting dating can be...) so the meat is often thin and bland.

Season continues through April so do make the most of it! Even the Finns have truly discovered mussels, I've noticed - more than once I've had to do some serious detective work in order to get my hands on some as they've been sold out everywhere. I've therefore had to learn to plan ahead and make some calls - thank goodness for Anton & Anton's superb customer care!

So far during the mussel mania my absolute favourites were those Spanish ones with saffron, chilli, Serrano ham, garlic and sherry. Probably one of the best things I've ever made, actually. This time, inspired by laksa, I whipped up a coconut milk-based sauce and this too is a tough contender for a spot in the Top 3!

Serves 2-3

1 kg mussels
1 generous tsp lemon grass paste (or a couple of stems of fresh lemon grass)
1-2 chillis (depending on their size and the stamina of your palate)
3 large garlic cloves
5 cm piece of ginger
1 can of coconut milk
1/4 dl fish sauce
1/8 dl soy sauce
1/4 dl cane sugar (or palm sugar)
2 shallots
oil for frying

to serve: fresh coriander leaves, lime wedges

First make the broth. Measure finely sliced ginger, chilli, garlic, lemon grass paste and coconut milk into a pan. If using fresh lemon grass, trim the ends and bruise it by bashing it with the back of a knife to release all the flavours. Bring to boil and let simmer over moderate heat, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain. 

Heat some oil and sauté finely sliced shallots. Return broth into the pan and bring to boil.

Brush and rinse the mussels. Add into the pan and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes. Shake the pot on a couple of occasions. Discard the ones that haven't opened. Sprinkle some fresh chilli and coriander leaves on top and serve with lime wedges.




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