Spiced Mussel Pilaf
Updated: Apr 6
"If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people."
This started out as a recipe for a "Kedgeree of Arbroath Smokies" from “Rick Stein’s Seafood Odyssey” . But it evolved into a favourite packed lunch in which mussels replaced the smoked fish. Interestingly, Rick Stein later wrote a recipe for "Mussels in Pilau Rice..." in “Rick Stein’s Food Heroes”.
It's a perfect packed lunch for winter when mussels are at about the best they are in the year... It's satisfying, warming and only mildly spicy unless preferred otherwise.
Other than the ratio of rice to liquid, there is much flexibility in the ingredient quantities to use for this recipe. For example, the quantities of the mussels, the whole spices, the shallot, parsley and chilli can all be adjusted to personal taste. The chilli is, in fact, not an ingredient I have typically used in this dish but, on the occasion, it lends a welcome spicy kick. Equally the saffron is far from essential but adds a touch of luxury in the way that saffron always does.
There's no harm in making more than you first think you will need - as a dish it's very moreish and reheats nicely.
Spiced Mussel Pilaf
Ingredients (Serves 2)
150g basmati rice
2 tbsp white wine (or water)
15g unsalted butter
1-2 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
½" cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 shallot (30-40g), finely chopped
200ml fish, chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron strands (optional)
Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Red or green chilli (optional), finely chopped or thinly sliced, quantity to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash and soak the rice in many changes of water.
Bring the 2 tbsp white wine (or water) to the boil in a large saucepan, add the mussels, then cover and cook over a high heat until the mussels open, about 2 mins. Drain into a colander set over a bowl to catch the cooking juices. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meats from the shells, except for a few for presentation purposes. Set aside.
Make the reserved cooking liquor (minus the grit at the bottom) up to 250ml with the stock plus water if necessary.
Heat the butter in a saucepan and sauté the whole spices for about a minute, then add the chopped shallot. Cook, without colouring, for about 5 mins, then add the turmeric and the rice and cook for a further minute, stirring to coat the grains with the spicy butter. Now add the stock, ¼ tsp salt and the saffron strands (if using) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and allow to cook very gently for 12-15 mins.
Finally, give the rice a stir, add the mussels, parsley and chilli (if using), season to taste and allow the mussels to warm through, about 1 min. Serve with lemon wedges.
“Rick Stein’s Seafood Odyssey”, Rick Stein (1999), pp. 171: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Seafood-Odyssey-Stein/dp/0563551860
“Rick Stein’s Food Heroes”, Rick Stein (2002), pp. 54: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Food-Heroes-Stein/dp/0563534745