Alun Sperring’s recipe for Tamil mussels rasam | Life and style

Rasam is a fiery broth from Tamil Nadu, south India. It is typical of the region in its in-your-face heat – that’s what I love. This dish brings back memories of eating it at the height of the Indian summer; it had such a wonderful cooling effect as the fans blew and the sweat dripped off the brow. As you add the mustard and fenugreek seeds to the hot coconut oil, they start to crackle. Add the curry leaves and they splutter; the kitchen will be filled with a cloud of earthy aromas. The key is to finish the rasam first, check that all the seasoning is spot-on, then add your mussels to the boiling broth. We serve this at the restaurant with dal vada – savoury lentil doughnuts.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

60 West Country black mussels (approximately 15 per portion)
50ml extra virgin coconut oil
4g mustard seeds
4g fenugreek seeds
15g cumin seeds
25g ginger paste
20g garlic, crushed
10g black pepper, crushed
500g tomatoes, diced
12g salt
10g turmeric powder
10g ground coriander
500ml water
100ml tomato juice
100ml tamarind pulp
20 curry leaves
2 dessert spoons fresh coriander, chopped
1 dessert spoon lemon juice

Clean the mussels of any debris and pull out any beards. Wash well. Mussels should be heavy and full. If they are open, tap lightly on the shell and they should close tight. If any are dead or dying, they will remain open – discard these immediately.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds and heat until they crackle. Add the crushed garlic and ginger paste and cook until a light golden colour. Add the black pepper, tomato, salt, turmeric, ground coriander, water and tomato juice. Bring to the boil before adding the tamarind pulp, curry leaves and 1 dessert spoon of fresh coriander. Check the seasoning, then add the mussels to the boiling rasam and cover. As soon as the mussels start to open, remove the lid and shake the pan to move them around, then re-cover and cook for about one minute. Remove the lid and add the remaining fresh coriander and the lemon juice. Mix gently and serve into four bowls. Drizzle with coconut oil and sprinkle with more cracked black pepper.

Alun Sperring is founder of The Chilli Pickle, Brighton

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