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by Diana Henry

Serving mussels to friends creates a kind of holiday feeling. It's the fact that you eat them with your hands, actively digging out the food, and you get messy. Before Iong the table is littered with shells (what beautiful debris-the bluish wash inside looks as if it were applied by the most careful watercolorist), squeezed lemon wedges, and crumpled napkins. Another bottle of wine is opened and people decide to stay "just a bit longer." Food that has this profound an effect is definitely worth cooking. Mussels are also good for you, cheap, and sustainable. What more could you want?
This dish is utterly addictive.
Serves 4


    For The Mussels
    • 4½ lb mussels
    • 1½ tbsp groundnut oil
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 3/4 in square fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
    • 2 fresh red chiles, seeded and shredded
    • 2 x 14 oz cans coconut milk
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1½ tsp soft light brown sugar
    • 2 kaffir lime leaves, cut into strips (or grated zest of 1 lime)

    To Serve
    • 2 kaffir lime leaves, cut into strips (or grated zest of 1 lime)
    • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 fresh red chile, seeded and shredded


1. Wash the mussels really well, scrubbing off barnacles and removing any "beards." Tap each on the side of the sink. If it doesn't close, chuck it away. Rinse the mussels well.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chiles. Cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft and very pale gold. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, and lime leaves. Bring to just under a boil, then add the mussels.

3. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, or until the mussels have opened, shaking the pan a couple of times. Throw away any that haven't opened (and remind your diners to do the same).

4. To serve, stir, then throw the lime leaves, cilantro, and chile on top.

Spanish mussels with cider and chorizo

Prepare 2½ lb mussels as above.
Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pan and saute 8 oz Spanish chorizo (skinned and cut into chunks) and 2 onions, finely chopped, until slightly colored and the onions have softened.
Add 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, and cook for 2 minutes to soften. Throw in the mussels, 2¼ cups dry hard cider and pepper, and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and leave the mussels to steam open, about 4 minutes.
Throw away any that haven't opened (or tell your diners to do so), stir in 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, and serve immediately in soup plates.


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