Dinner à deux: Coconut spiced mussels with toasted herby naan

Mussels are the perfect supper for two. Prepare any more than a kilo and you may well lose the will to live, but enough for you and your loved one is just enough graft to make you feel smugly satisfied whilst still leaving you plenty of time to snuggle on the sofa in post-dinner bliss. Sweet shellfish pairs brilliantly with creamy Indian curry flavours and tangy lime plus of course shellfish, chilli and garlic have all been reputed as aphrodisiacs at some point in the past (probably by those horny old Romans), so what more excuse do you need to whip up this simple supper for your Valentine?

Coconut spiced mussels with toasted herby naanCoconut spiced mussels with toasted herby naan
Serves 2

1kg mussels
2 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots
2 tbsp Balti curry paste
400ml coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
1 green chilli
A small handful of coriander
1 naan bread

1. Rinse the mussels in cold water, removing any beards and barnacles, and discard any open ones that don’t close when given a sharp tap (this means they’re already dead). Leave in a sinkful of clean cold water until needed. Preheat the oven or grill to high.

2. Peel and finely slice the shallots. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large deep saucepan. Add the shallots and fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden at the edges, stirring occasionally. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a further minute.

3. Pour the coconut milk into the pan, increase the heat to high, and bring to a rapid simmer. Drain the mussels in a colander and tip into the pan. Stir the mussels to coat them in the cooking liquid then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until all the mussels have opened (discard any that haven’t).

4. Meanwhile crush the garlic and finely chop the green chilli (if you prefer it milder, de-seed the chilli first) and half the coriander. Mix with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Spread onto the naan bread and grill or bake for 2-3 mins, then cut into wedges.

5. Stir the lime juice into the mussels, then ladle everything into deep bowls. Scatter with the remaining coriander leaves (discard the stalks) and serve with the hot naan wedges on the side.

6. To eat, pick the mussels one by one from the shells, scooping up the delicious sauce as you go and mop everything up with the spicy naans.

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Black pepper prawns (Firecracker prawns)

You can always tell if you’re truly comfortable with someone when you’re willing to get down and dirty with a plate of sticky finger food in their company – whether it’s wings, ribs or a mound of shellfish, nothing says “he/she’s a good’un” like a willingness to get stuck in, get sauce smeared everywhere and do lots of finger-licking! In this dish that’s all pretty much compulsory, no cutlery is needed or wanted here.

Black pepper prawns

Despite the quantity of hot ingredients – 3 types of pepper, lots of ginger, chilli – this isn’t an insanely hot dish (though it does have a kick!). The Szechuan pepper not only makes your lips tingle, but it had a slight numbing effect too, leaving you hungry for more. It may seem odd to use butter in a clearly Oriental dish, but it creates a gorgeously unctuous sauce and – fusion-sceptics note – really is the best.

Firecracker pepper prawns
Serves 2

300g raw shell-on jumbo king prawns, trimmed of legs & straggly bits
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
100g butter
15-20g fresh ginger, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced (as hot as you like)
3 fat garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 spring onions, chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice

In a large wok toast the peppercorns for a minute or two until very aromatic, then tip into a pestle & mortar and crush roughly. Don’t over pound them, you want bits of peppercorn, not dust.

Melt the butter in the wok then fry the ginger, chilli and garlic for a couple of minutes until tender but not browned. Throw in the crushed pepper, the prawns, oyster sauce, soy sauce and most of the spring onions. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the prawns are cooked through (they should be completely opaque, with no trace of grey on their shells), finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, and the reserved spring onions and serve immediately.

To eat, suck the sauce off the prawn shells one at a time, peel off the shell and dunk the prawn back in the sauce. Suck the heads if you’re feeling brave (it’s where a lot of the prawn’s best juice is!). Crusty bread for mopping up the spare sauce is hardly authentically Oriental but works wonderfully, alternatively give each person a little bowl of steamed basmati or jasmine rice.

Continue reading “Black pepper prawns (Firecracker prawns)”

Chillies and Mexican Food – the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge roundup

Fiery Roasted Red Pepper Salsa For anyone who loves chillies proper Mexican food is a real treat – the Mexicans grow and use probably more varieties of chilli than any other country, from the fiery habanero to the smokey chipotle and everything in between.  This month I am delighted to be the host of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge, and hope you will find some inspiration in the fabulous flavours of Mexico which our contributors showcased this month. As usual the rules were simply that the dish had to contain chilli in some form, and the style of cuisine – as this month celebrated Cinco de Mayo – was Mexican, natch.  Starting the fiesta is the queen of the Chilli Challenge herself, Lyndsey, who put forward a fiery roasted red pepper salsa of such stunning proportions I defy anyone not to want to grab one of those tortilla chips and dig in.

Tango Like Raindrop was actually the first off the blocks with this colourful mango Pico de Gallo salsa, a fruity twist on a classic recipe:

Mango Pico-de-Gallo SalsaAnother mango offering came from Janet of ‘The Taste Space‘, this time as an accompaniment to a healthy twist on a Mexican favourite – Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos

Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos‘Farmer’s Girl’ Janice Pattie went super-meaty with these Lamb Steaks with Adobo Seasoning Lamb Steaks with Adobo SeasoningChris of ‘Cooking Around the World’ took the challenge to a new level (and won the heart of my hubby, who’d tried & failed to persuade me to do the same) by making his own tortillas for these delicious sounding mini Garnachas with tomato-apple salsa:

Garnachas with tomato-apple salsaMy contribution to the month’s round-up had to be the much-maligned (in TexMex restaurants anyway) but genuinely Mexican favourite Faijitas, using a homemade version of a store-bought sauce and a variation on the classic salsa Pico de Gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloAnd finishing the roundup was another contribution from Lyndsey, some delicious Grilled Fish Tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos If you’d like to take part in, or host, a future Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge you can find all the information you need here.

Presto Pasta Nights #248 – The roundup

No sooner had the announcement been made that I was hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Nights then I had received the first entry, this stunning offering from La Caffettiera Rosa, a delicious seafood pasta with cannellini beans and mussels:

lacaffettierarosaNext up was Clarion of Preventing Culinary Amnesia with her classic Arrabbiata, a word which incidentally is Italian for ‘angry’, perfect for a dish of such spicyness:

ArrabbiataRuth, Queen Bee of Presto Pasta Nights and blogger over at Once Upon A Feast, contributed this delicious woodland-inspired ‘taste of the forest’ pasta with mushrooms, pancetta & arugula (that’s ‘rocket’ to you and me!) 🙂

Taste of the Forest Pasta Thus far all the pasta dishes have been pretty darn speedy supper recipes, but then in swept Nupur of UK Rasoi with a lovely step-by-step guide to making one of my favourite weekend meal projects: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni:

Spinach and Ricotta CannelloniThe meatiest offering of the week came from Jules of Pictures of a princess, a spicy yet creamy Chicken Paprikash served on spätzle – the Germanic equivalent of Italy’s noodle, the name of which means ‘little sparrows’ for goodness-only-knows reason why!

Chicken paprikashShellfish got a rather glamorous makeover with this impressive entry from Tandy of Lavender & Lime – it’s time to apply for your fishing permit and do battle with the invading red signals so you can make this:  Crayfish ravioli with a bisque sauce

CRAYFISH RAVIOLI WITH A BISQUE SAUCEI’m not normally a big fan of vegan food (I do so love my cheese!) but Deb of Kahakai Kitchen might just have converted me with this scrumptious Super quick tomato basil ‘cream’ bucatini in which blitzed cashews take the place of dairy to make the sauce rich and creamy:

Super Quick Vegan Tomato Basil "Cream" BucatiniShelby, aka ‘HoneyB’ over at The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch broke with the so-far distinctly European vibe to produce this fabulous east-meets-west fusion of Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Mushroom Sauce on linguine:

Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Mushroom Sauce More globe trotting on the pasta front was going on over at Cook.Craft.Enjoy where the order of the day was a Paprika chicken stew with Pierogies – the delicious Polish dumplings that are halfway between ravioli and potato gnocchi:

Chicken Stew with PierogiesJoanne of Eats Well With Others joined in with an inspired healthy-meets-comfort food offering of Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese:

Broccoli-Basil Mac and CheeseWith a twist on a classic in a similar vein to Joanne, Ruth of Once Upon A Feast deserves super-praise for contributing not just one, but TWO entries for this week’s round up – her second one being her Insanely Delicious Mac ‘n Cheese with Kale:

Insanely Delicious Mac 'n Cheese with Kale And lastly, but hopefully not least, is my own contribution – an Asian cousin of ravioli – Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce:

← Chili-con-Carne for even the most hardened chilli-phobe (and chilli-lover!) Presto Pasta Nights needs YOU! → Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauceThat’s it!  I’ve loved hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Nights and hope you’ve enjoyed my roundup.  Next week the roundup returns to Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast.

Presto pasta nights