April, Well Seasoned: Curried Mussels

In appreciative awe of the Curried Mussels from The Breslin Bar & Dining Room

I can’t tell you how many times I asked what was in the Breslin’s Curried Mussels, but it was enough to make myself a nuisance. After a good deal of pleading, Katharine Marsh (who is currently head chef at The Spotted Pig but who worked at the Breslin when it opened and came up with this gem) shared the lengthy list of ingredients for the curry base.

The dish—the Breslin’s nod, perhaps, to the English curry habit—is shockingly delicious with its surprising nuances, and remains one of my favorite menu items. Piquant and fragrant, it’s artfully balanced by the soothing, thickening dollop of Greek yogurt which melts and slides, curdles and combines with the curry base. The cilantro cools the chili’s heat. The chickpeas punctuate the smooth broth-y base. At the Breslin the mussels are Prince Edward Island, the plumpest and most perfectly formed I’ve ever seen…there is nary an unopened one served or left behind!

Here is my approximation of the Breslin’s exquisite curried mussels:

Ingredients  (Serves 4)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 large shallots, thinly sliced, 4 for curry base, 1 for garnish
4 fresh garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon each of the following ground spices: fennel, coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, allspice, chile, black pepper
1/2 lemon, for juice
1/2 lime, for juice
2 tablespoon pineapple juice
1 (15-ounce) can tomatoes in juice, chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1 cup of small chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup fish stock
3 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves picked off stem and stems reserved
3/4  cup plain Greek yogurt
sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

Let de-bearded, scrubbed mussels soak in a basin of water with a few ice cubes. Poor 1/4 cup of plain flour into the water, stir and let sit while you prepare your curry base. (The mussels will ingest the flour and will expel any sand or grit that is in their digestive system, which makes them a good deal more pleasant and plump.)

Curry Base: Sauté garlic and shallots in 2 tablespoons olive oil. When golden, add fresh grated ginger and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground fennel, coriander, cumin, tumeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, allspice, chili and black pepper. Cook over high heat. Add chopped tomatoes, and chopped cilantro stems and let simmer. Add lemon, lime and pineapple juice, continuing to simmer. Purée until smooth.

To Serve: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add thinly sliced fennel and sauté until just tender. Add curry base, chick peas and fish stock. Check for seasoning (add a few drops of lemon juice or pinch of salt and fresh pepper to taste). Add mussels and cook, covered until they are just open.

Spoon mussels with the tomato, fennel, chickpea-laden broth into bowls. Garnish with several spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, a tangle of cilantro leaves and thinly sliced shallots, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with slices of grilled ciabatta or flatbread toast doused in olive oil.

To purchase April’s book, A Girl and Her Pig, click here.


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14 Responses to “April, Well Seasoned: Curried Mussels”

  1. heidi says:

    Thank you so much for this entry. I have been craving these mussels for weeks after enjoying at the Breslin – can’t get them out of my head!

  2. CHEMIER MISHKIN Jocelyne says:

    This very personal approach of giving culinary recipies not only urges us to try the meal and the restaurant but inclines us to know more about this very good “plume” (as we say in French) when we compliment someone about their writting. Bravo Miss Lovage from a French professional journalist !

  3. Jane says:

    This sounds like it might be my new favorite meal in the world. I can’t wait to try it, thank you so much.

  4. Adrienne says:

    The recipe sound really fantastic. I’m going to try it this week. Thank you!

  5. Rahul Vidish says:

    I’d take this deliciousness from the Breslin above that of an Art Deco-inspired torture chamber (fantastic!) any day. Deliciousness.

  6. Poppy P says:

    I might be a huge dope but I never knew that if you put some flour in with the mussels it would clear out the grit. WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE DO THIS?? I’ve never actually cooked mussels before but I must admit this recipe makes me very tempted. Might try to muster the courage between now and dinner time. Thanks for a delicious looking recipe. I hope the ‘begging’ wasn’t too soul sucking. 😉

  7. Diane says:

    I feel there is no differentiating the writing from the recipes from the photographs even — all are a pure delight. I read the Lovage while I am supposed to be doing something else and always when I want to have a good day…something to savor in the memory and look forward to making as I have, often, with divine and fun words of inspiration as my source.

  8. Dame Louisa says:

    tried these last night, delicious! thank you for your stories and for bringing some good cooking to an old lady and her beau.

  9. Having had the good fortune to dine at the Breslin & indulge in April’s devine Curried Mussels, so happy that you “begged” for recipe so can now try at home….

  10. Robin Moss says:

    These mussels in their curried ambrosia sound divine. I love the title of this post and the intimacy of your story.

  11. Sauci CeCe says:

    These mussels in their curried ambrosia sound divine. I love the title of this post and the intimacy of your story.

  12. Bronson Moorehead says:

    I’m so sad that this dish far exceeds my abilities in the kitchen.

    But, like your other posts, it simply makes me want to try harder!

    Thank you for loving food so much.

    Loving the Lovage!

  13. silver cat says:

    This is a wonderful post, Tarajia! I’ve eaten this dish at the Breslin and it’s my favorite, too. With this recipe, hopefully I can recreate a version almost
    as good. Your photos add alot to the pleasure of reading your tale. Thank you!

  14. Sally Tomatoes says:

    Oh Ms. Lovage, I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your missives. Keep ’em coming. You are as gifted a writer as you must be a cook. Thank you for such succulent blogging!

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