Book: Mediterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou Theme: Hor d’oeuvre Recipe: Stuffed Mussels
And we’re up to Week 3 of the Cookbook Challenge already! The theme is hor d’oeuvre. Not a word I can spell without help, to be perfectly honest. Nor am I so much of a finger food person either. But one day I was flipping through a few of my ‘street food’ type books and figured hey I could just work on that angle.
Slightly fiddly – having to make the stuffing and cooking the mussels but the effort is well worth it. It was so good. I suspect the key reason was that I had some truly good mussels. These are the Spring Bay mussels (their mussel fact sheet is a good read) I bought from a fish monger at Queen Victoria Market. I have to go back to the market every week for my seafood.
Mediterranean Street Food: what a great book. It’s all black & white and very few pictures but the travelling stories and the recipes are well worth reading from cover to cover. That’s a hall mark of a good book: the ability to read from cover to cover and not get bored. Josh bought me this book as a birthday present last year. I love it.
As usual I changed the recipe a bit to suit what I have on hands but the gist of it is still the same. It’s well worth the effort to source the best live mussels you can find. You need large-ish mussels to be able to stuff successfully. I had 20 mussels for 1/2 kg. That’s the size that’s perfect for the amount of stuffing I have given here.
Rice, raisin and pine nut stuffing
- 2 large-ish shallots, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp of pine nuts
- 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp of good extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of arborio rice
- 2 tbsp of chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp of chopped fresh dill
- 2 tbsp of raisins
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp of nutmeg (Anissa called for allspice, in my weird logic, nutmeg would do)
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- good pinch of cayenne pepper
- good pinch of ground clove (I bashed up two cloves here)
- 3 good pinches of salt
- a few twists of pepper
- 1.5 cup of boiling water
Heat2 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped shallots and pine nuts to cook gently for a few minutes. Add rice and stir until the rice becomes hot (like you would when you do risotto. In fact, this stuffing is pretty much a risotto). Add the raisins, spices, salt, pepper, parsley and dill. Anissa also called for 2 tbsp of tomato paste here but I forgot all about it and it turned great without. So I personally wouldn’t bother. Add the boiling water, stir and turn to the heat down to simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes until the rice is firm to bite and most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat, add an additional tbsp of olive oil and let it cool.
Preparing the mussels
- 1/2 kg of fresh blue mussels (about 20)
If you are not eating the mussels straight away, empty them out from the plastic bag that they are in. Wrap them with paper and sit them in the fridge. They need air to stay alive. There’s something very unfortunate about this as I feel like a horrible meanie preparing the mussels this way. But here goes
Rinse the mussels in cold water and scrub the shells if need be. Anissa says ‘Lay a mussel on a kitchen towel on your work surface and insert the tip of a small sharp knife between the shells at the nerve end of the slanted bottom. Slide the knife downward and all around the shell until you cut into the muscle – the mussel will open easily… Do not rush this part or you will either break the shell or hurt yourself with the knife’ I did exactly that and was amazed at how the mussel just opened up. I then took a pair of scissors and snip off the beard. Just so we are clear, you are slicing the actual mussel in half.
Put a teaspoon or so of the rice stuffing. Hold the mussels close and wipe of any excess rice. Some will stay close and some won’t. It’s awfully messy so I took no photos. Take a large pot and line the mussels on one layer (Anissa said you could do a few layers but I didn’t), put a plate on top to weight them down. Add any water from the mussels and cover them and cook them on high heat for about 5 minutes. Never, ever, overcook mussels.
To serve, take off one of the shell (gently remove the mussel, they should come off easily), sprinkle a bit of dill on it and spoon over a little bit of the mussel juice at the bottom of the pot (don’t do it, it will be quite salty) onto the rice stuff. Serve with a tiny squeeze of lemon. Heaven. I could eat all 20. I would have died. But I would have died a happy girl.