Cook the Book: Curried Mussels

Cook the Book: Curried Mussels
  • Yield:6

[Flickr: Pille - Nami-nami]

While perusing the seafood chapter of David Leite's The New Portuguese Table I have to say that this recipe for Curried Mussels had me scratching my head. What does curry have to do with Portuguese cooking? According to Leite, curry has had a place in Portuguese cuisine for over 500 years dating back to bearded explorer Vasco de Gama's first voyage to the East. The spices that de Gama brought back from India made their way into Portuguese cuisine.

These Curried Mussels incorporate Portuguese ingredients— mussels from the coast, tomatoes, and cilantro with spices reminiscent of exotic foreign lands—curry powder and a hot sauce made from African piri piri peppers. A bit of cream mellows out the warm spices and hot pepper sauce and a sprinkling of cilantro at the end lends a bit of brightness.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The New Portuguese Table to give away this week.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 6 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded, and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Piri-piri sauce or store bought hot sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. 1.

    Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Drop in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in two thirds of the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the curry powder, ginger, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Set aside.

  2. 2.

    Discard any mussels that feel heavy (which means they're full of sand), have broken shells, or don't close when tapped. Pour the wine into a roomy pot. Clatter in the mussels, cover tightly, and cook over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the shells pop open, 7 to 10 minutes. Toss out any mussels that refuse to open, then pluck all but 18 from their shells. Strain the mussel liquid.

  3. 3.

    Add 1 1/2 cups of the mussel liquid to the skillet with the tomato mixture, then add the cream and bring to a boil over high heat to thicken slightly. If you prefer a brothy curry, add more mussel liquid; if it's a creamy curry that you're after, reduce the mixture more. Season with piri-piri sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the shelled mussels.

  4. 4.

    Spoon the rice in to 6 bowls and top with the mussels. Garnish each with mussels in their shells, and shower with the remaining tomatoes and the cilantro. Pass the piri-piri sauce at the table.

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