Sri Lankan moules

I love a classic French Moules a la Marinere with a crisp Muscadet and cream sauce but this Sri Lankan version makes a delicious change. I was given a copy of the Hoppers cookbook (a small chain of excellent Sri Lankan restaurants in London) for Christmas and this is the first recipe I tried. I’ve adapted it slightly to make it easier and, I think, tastier. The sauce contains lots of beautiful aromatics so the sauce is best made ahead to allow all the wonderful flavours to develop fully. It only takes 10 minutes to make the sauce and the mussels cook in just a few minutes. Rope-grown mussels from Waitrose are my ‘mussel of choice’ – clean, plump and delicious. You can buy curry leaves from Asian grocery stores – buy a lot and freeze what you don’t use for another time. Serve with rice noodles or plain rice to soak up the fragrant coconut sauce and you’ve got a seriously delicious treat on your hands.

Sri Lankan moules

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

  • 1kg rope grown mussels (I buy them from Waitrose)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or light rapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 lemongrass sticks cut into 5cm pieces
  • 12 fresh curry leaves
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1x 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 2 green chillies, halved lengthways (retain the seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Garnish: defrosted frozen or freshly grated coconut, chopped fresh coriander, samphire tips
  • To serve: plain rice or rice noodles

To make…

  • To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan, medium heat. Add the fenugreek and cinnamon stick and allow to fry for 30 seconds. Add the sliced onion, garlic, lemongrass and curry leaves and continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the turmeric and cook for another 15 seconds. Stir in the coconut milk, salt and green chillies. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 4 minutes being careful not to allow it to boil. Take it off the heat and set aside. Once cooled, allow the flavours to infuse for at least an hour in the fridge before cooking the mussels.
  • Prepare the mussels carefully. Rope grown mussels tend to be pretty clean to begin with so just rinse them in clean water, remove the beards with a paring knife and discard any that have cracked shells.
  • When you’re ready to cook, add the sauce back to your large lidded saucepan, bring it to a high simmer and then add the mussels. Stir and cover with the lid. The mussels will cook in the steam in 2 to 3 minutes and begin to open. Shake the pan every 30 seconds or so.
  • After 3 minutes, discard any that haven’t opened. Share out equally into warmed serving bowls and scatter the garnish over them.
  • When you serve the mussels, give everyone a half of a fresh lime so they can squeeze the juice over the mussels and to sharpen the sauce. I find the coconut sauce a little rich without plenty of lime juice. Serve the noodles or rice on the side, it’s delicious mixed in with the sauce, garnish and the sweet juicy mussels. Make sure you add a big bowl onto the table for all the discarded shells and provide plenty of napkins.

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About Janet Davies @pigeoncottage

Food lover, author, cook!
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