Saffron Mussels with Coconut Cream

Mussels from Brussels make Muscles…


If you had asked me a year ago if I would even consider eating sea food? The answer would have been an unequivocal – NO! Then one day on a beautiful summers day, my husband and I sat at a cafe with Viktor, overlooking the beautiful St. Kilda Beach. Alright Sydneysiders no need to roll your eyes, the beach looked really beautiful in the glistening sun light. For my friends around the world, Australians are very precious about their beaches and particularly Sydneysiders, who don’t really consider Melbourne beaches real beaches.Oh wait I am digressing, this isn’t meant to be a lecture about the Australian  culture or beaches across it’s six states.

Back to my story, so we were at this beautiful cafe at the beach and I was looking at the menu deciding what to eat. There was a great selection to choose from if you were a meat eater or seafood eater, but for the humble vegetarians there was the usual. Pumpkin gnnochi, eggplant and zuchinni pizza, assortment of salads with typical ingredients – beetroot, lentils, some sort of cheese, etc. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with any of those vegetarian options but it can get a bit monotonous when everywhere you go, you get those same vegetarian options. Hopefully LSD will change the way of the world and enlighten you with how much variety vegetarian food truly has.

Bet you are thinking, oh yay! today we are going to learn another vegetarian dish. No, no you are not! You didn’t hear what I ended up ordering at the cafe? I ordered a seafood marinara pasta. YES! you read that right. I went on a whim and ordered a seafood pasta, which my husband thought I was ordering for him and he was surprised to learn to the contrary it was for me.

I must admit I had eaten calamari and some light white fish before this, but never ever had I eaten prawns, mussels or morton bay bugs. As you would imagine the sight could be quite confronting, but no I was determined to eat them and enjoy them! And I did enjoy them, I really loved the mussels and that made me wonder why hadn’t I tried to venture out of my  comfort zone earlier and ordered a seafood dish before.

Sometimes, I love doing things on a whim, when my brain generates a great idea I find it inconceivable not to follow it through and execute on it and thankfully so far most of my great ideas have translated into great realities. Why am I telling you this? Well you remember my visit to the Footscray markets not so long ago? When I was there I had this great idea of wanting to cook with mussels. Ofcourse my brain didn’t caution me to say – hey miss you have never cooked with them before! hey miss do you even know how to clean them or for how long to cook them? Nope, none of those questions. I saw, I bought and I came home.

Turns out we were having a very dear friend over for dinner that night and logic would dictate I cook something safe, something tried, something tested. No, I was determined to cook them mussels. We had a three course meal and the mussels were the stars of the second course. So you have clearly figured out this recipe is about mussels.

Before we proceed there are a few important things you should know when cooking with mussels. However, if you have bought mussels that are already cleaned and debearded then scroll down to the recipe. For my other friends the steps below should assist you in cleaning and debearding the mussels and also tell you when not to use a mussel.

Debearding Mussels
  • Mussels available at fish markets and super markets are mostly cultivated mussels, so you do not need to soak them, but if you are pedantic like me then feel free to soak them for 10 – 15 minutes in cold water.
  • Scrub the mussels under cold, running water and remove the beards (the bristly material sticking out from one side) by pulling down toward the hinge of the shell and outward. Use a towel for leverage — mussels hold onto their beards pretty tightly so you might find yourself wrestling with them.
When not to use a Mussel
  • If the mussel shell is slightly open, tap it with a knife to see if it closes. If it does not close, chuck it – the mussel is dead.
  • If a mussel feels really heavy for its size, more than likely it’s filled with mud – chuck it.
  • If a mussel has a hole or a cracked shell – chuck it.
Ingredients: 6    Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4
  • A bag of fresh mussels (mine had about 25 mussels)
  • One tablespoon of mustard oil
  • 300 ml of light coconut cream
  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • Three to four medium kaffir lime leaves
  • One medium chopped brown onion
  • One thumb sized chunk of smashed ginger
  • Fresh coriander and crispy shallots to garnish

In a pan add one tablespoon of mustard oil and let it heat. This is called smoking the oil, it improves the flavour and makes the aroma less pungent. Now add the brown onion and smashed ginger and stir. I love the smell of onion and ginger mix cooking.

Once the onion mix is translucent add turmeric and stir. Now add the kaffir lime leaves and a quarter cup of water to make a sauce. Don’t add too much water as mussels have a lot of moisture and you don’t want a soggy mess.

By this stage you should start smelling the delicious kaffir lime leaves and if you can’t add one or two more, followed by the mussels.Give the mussels a good stir to coat them evenly with the beautiful flavours.

Now add 300 ml of coconut cream and give the mussels a good stir. Close the lid and let the mussels cook on a low heat for five minutes. Check the mussels to see if they have opened and give them a gentle stir. If the mussels have slightly opened put the lid back for another two minutes to steam the mussels and turn the heat off. Let the mussels rest for two to three minutes.

Remove the lid and by this stage your beautiful mussels would have opened up and ready to devour. For plating, scoop the sauce into your serving bowl, saving some to drizzle on top and then assemble the mussels and drizzle the leftover sauce. Top it up with fresh coriander and crispy shallots. Serve it with char grilled sourdough bread or steam basmati rice.

Yet again, lip smackingly delicious….