This is a star of a dish: rich and aromatic, sophisticated, yet entirely doable; it is also cheap, which is an added bonus. Depending on where you buy them, mussels can take a bit of scrubbing and some tugging to remove the beards, but I find the task rather pleasing and it makes the resulting feast all the more satisfying. Do this in advance, and the curry sauce, too, if you want, so you can have a glass of wine and produce the dish as if by magic.
Mussels with coconut, turmeric and jasmine rice
It is well worth seeking out fresh curry leaves – they can be kept in the freezer and add a wonderfully heady earthiness to any dish.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
3 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
375g jasmine rice, unwashed
1.5kg mussels, cleaned
For the temper (optional)
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 heaped tsp black mustard seeds
16-18 curry leaves
Warm two tablespoons of the oil in a medium pan over a medium heat, add the onion, season with a few pinches of salt and fry for 10 minutes, until coloured and soft. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli, cook for another three minutes, then add the spices and stir-fry for a minute. Pour in the coconut milk and 150ml water, season to taste with the fish sauce, then bring to a simmer and leave to cook very gently while you make the rice.
Wash the rice once under cold, running water, then tip into a pan and add 650ml cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat to its lowest setting and leave to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside somewhere warm, still covered.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over a high heat in a wok or other large pan for which you have a lid. Once smoking, throw in the mussels, shake once and cover the pan. Cook for a minute, then pour in the coconut milk mixture and cook for a few minutes more, until the milk is simmering and the mussels have opened (discard any that don’t).
For a final flourish, warm the tempering oil in a small frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the mustard seeds and, as soon as they begin to pop, add the curry leaves and cook until crisp and translucent, then take off the heat. Fluff the rice with a fork, then divide between bowls, ladle the mussels on top and spoon on the temper to finish.
And for the rest of the week …
This sauce works beautifully with all kinds of fish, so do experiment; I also like it on potatoes and spinach, or cauliflower, for a midweek vegetable curry.