Rick Stein has made some wonderful food and travel programmes, we’ve loved the recent one about Cornwall, the rerun of Secret France and repeats of Long Weekends. We saw this mussel pilaf being made at a restaurant in the Thessaloniki episode and it made us long for sunnier climes and the days when holidays were possible. It was time to dig out my Long Weekends recipe book! The ingredients used by the restaurant chef and Rick’s version are a bit different so I’ve produced here what I think is the ‘best of breed’ version. I buy rope-grown mussels from Waitrose as they are very clean and not at all gritty, adding plenty of dill to give it that authentic Greek flavour. It was a fantastic Saturday supper for two with a chilled bottle of white Burgundy but you could easily scale the recipe up for more as long as you have cooking pots big enough.
- 1 bag of raw rope-grown fresh mussels
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of spring onions, medium sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely grated
- 1/2 tsp turmeric (you could use saffron if you like, I find it makes very little difference to the flavour but a lot to the cost!)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- 20g pack of fresh dill, chopped
- 25g pack of fresh parsley, chopped
- 75ml dry white wine
- 200g white long grain rice
- 2 fresh tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
- 1 small green pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1/2 lemon to serve
- First, prep the mussels. Tip them into a big bowl of cold water and give them a wiggle to remove any external dirt. discard any that are already open or in any way cracked or damaged. Rope-grown mussels tend not to have those little beardy bits on them but trim them off if they do. Rinse the remaining ones in some clean cold water and put them in a pan with a splash of water. Cover and steam over a high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until open – give the pan a little shake or two to help them on their way. Pour the mussels into a large sieve or colander over a bowl. You’re going to use the cooking water so don’t pour it away. Remove the shells from all but a dozen and set the cooked mussels aside. Pour the cooking liquor (but not any last bits of grit in the bottom) into a jug and top up to 400ml with water.
- In a large pan over a medium heat, warm the olive oil and gently fry the onion, spring onion, green pepper and garlic for about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook for another 5 minutes. Add half the dill and parsley, a little salt and the wine. Stir and add the rice.
- Pour over the mussel stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes or until the rice is just soft. Have a little taste just before you put the lid on and add a little more salt if you think it needs it; there should be plenty of flavour to infuse the rice but no one likes bland!
- Add the cooked mussels and the rest of the dill and stir through.
- Top with the mussels left in their shells. Put the lid back on for another couple of minutes so everything warms through slightly – it tastes best just warm, not piping hot and you don’t want the mussels to go rubbery. Remove the lid, scatter with the remaining parsley and serve with wedges of lemon.
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