Sunday, 23 August 2009

Thai Steamed Mussels

One thing I am genuinely good at in the kitchen is dealing with left-overs. Although I ignore the golden rule of planning a weekly menu, I always check out the fridge before deciding what is for dinner that night. This has an extra bonus when you have flatmates, as often there are things left in the fridge and cupboards that they no longer want that can be snaffled.

Minimising waste is one of the rules of "Economy Gastronomy", a new show on BBC2. The show is definitely not aimed at me, as I've spent the last four years perfecting the art of eating well on a small budget, but I do enjoy some of the recipes. I also get a bit of schadenfreude off some of the more idiotic meal plans of the participants, but that just probably makes me an evil person.

One recipe that did catch my eye was the Thai Steamed Mussels. I love mussels, and I love Thai food too. When I found myself looking at a fridge containing half a can of coconut milk, it seemed like a good idea.

I made my own red curry paste, using a selection of jars from the fridge. The recipe is probably not all that authentic, but it tasted pretty good, with the right balance of heat, sourness and aromatics.

2 cloves of garlic,
2cm of ginger
1tsp lemongrass (either chopped or pureed)
1tsp tamarind paste
1 heaped tsp Thai shrimp chilli paste
3 small kaffir lime leaves (chopped, and soaked if using dried)
1tsp lime zest
1 red chilli (chopped)
1 spring onion (chopped)
Splash of groundnut oil

Thai Red Curry Paste

Basically, mash everything together with a pestle and mortar. I find it easiest to add the solid ingredients first and then start adding the pastes and liquids, but as long as it all ends up in the bowl it shouldn't matter too much. It takes quite a bit of pounding and grinding to get it all looking smooth, so put something good on tv or the radio and keep going. The recipe above makes enough for 3 or 4 large spoonfuls, and will keep in the fridge a couple of days if you don't use it all in one go.

Thai-Spiced Steamed Mussels

The mussels themselves were easy to make, although I was worried that I might give myself food poisoning by putting a bad one in the pot by mistake. I sorted through the bag, and only 2 failed to close when tapped. They'd also been debearded and scrubbed, although a couple still had the remains of a beard which I pulled out.

As I knew it would be a matter of minutes once the mussels went in the pan, I did a full mise en place for once. Chillies and garlic were chopped, and the spring onion and coriander garnish readied. I mixed up a jug of coconut milk, red curry paste and chicken stock, to pour over the mussels. (It was actually half an Oxo cube and some boiling water, but I didn't see the point of defrosting the real chicken stock for 75mls worth.)

5 minutes later, I was tucking in to a massive heap of mussels, with the fragrant broth awaiting me at the bottom of the bowl. I also had got a mini baguette earlier in the day, and used this to mop up the juices. Lovely!

All gone!

My main criticism would be that there was not much kick to this dish. I guess as Economy Gastronomy is aimed at families they didn't want to make it too spicy for the kids (but which kids do you know that would eat a plate full of mussels? I didn't go anywhere near seafood until I was in my late teens.) However, this would be easily solved by using more red curry paste, or making your own *very* spicy version.

I really enjoyed this meal, and it was very quick to make if you don't have to debeard and clean the mussels yourself. The mussels were not that expensive (£5.60 per kilo) but probably a little more than I would spend on one meal normally. I was also a bit put off by the lack of fruit and veg, but I guess if you had a healthy pudding or starter and a glass of juice that would compensate for the lack of roughage. However, it felt very indulgent and luxurious, and in total probably only cost me about £3.50. Bargain! A perfect way to use up leftovers!


Lizzie said...

1 red chilli is very restrained in a red curry paste. As a kid I dug into plates of mussels, clams, prawns etc with gusto and loved it but I have noticed British kids are more difficult to persuade.

Jenny said...

I made the paste using what was in the kitchen already, so the lack of red chillies is down to that. I did bump up the shrimp chilli paste to make up for it though. As I said, not very authentic, but given that I made it from stuff already in the fridge it worked quite well!

It's strange that we live on an island surrounding by great fishing waters, yet we don't really eat fish unless it's battered. I read something recently about this being a relic from the good old Catholic hating Tudor times, when we gave up fasting and just ate meat all the time instead.

Rosy said...

I totally agree - I spent many a summer tucking into langoustine in france and I can't believe how difficult they are to get here, even though they're just about everywhere in the seas around us!

Lovely looking recipe - my boyf loves all things spicey so I shall have to give it a whirl. Mmmm, mussels...

Lizzie said...

Actually, shrimp paste in curry pastes is very authentic! I've never seen any with added chilli though. As much as the stuff stinks to high heaven, I love it.