The Greeks celebrate the coming of Lent with an assortment of dishes that are fit for fasting. The main exhibit of every Greek housewife’s culinary triumphs of the day calls for a seafood meal of some sort. Seeing that in my seaside town we can get fresh mussels that are farmed locally, we tend to cook mussel risotto every year on this day.
The recipe derives from the ‘tsipouro’ tavernas in Volos and it is one of the most delicious recipes I have ever prepared. It also works like clockwork: Most of the time I don’t need to add any water after the stock is finished and the timeframes are set to perfection if one indeed uses basmati rice and fresh mussels as the recipe says.
I remember cooking this once for Adrian, my brother-in-law from England. He had visited here in May a few years ago and I had made this for his birthday. I’ve never seen anyone eat his food with so much relish – he actually kept moaning with pleasure from the first mouthful until he polished his plate. I hope you will enjoy this meal half as much as he did!
1 Kg of mussels in their shells (washed/scrubbed)
1 shot glass of ouzo (optional)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional, it makes the rice yellow and I love it!)
4-5 fresh onions chopped (or 1 red onion chopped)
1 clove of garlic (chopped)
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of Basmati or Thai rice
1 tomato (skinned and chopped)
Fresh dill (chopped)
Fresh spearmint (chopped)
Have hot water in the kettle at the ready (might be needed towards the end of cooking).
Put a cup of hot water and the ouzo in a pan and bring to boil.
Add mussels, a pinch of curry powder and cover.
When it boils, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes stirring gently a couple of times.
Remove from heat. Throw contents onto a sieve but have a bowl underneath to save the liquid! Put the mussels back in the pan and place cover on top to keep warm.
Put the hot liquid carefully through a very fine sieve (with a measuring jug underneath) with some cotton wool in the sieve as to catch the fine grains of sand. What you will then have in the jug is ready-made stock for the risotto (about 2.5 cups).
Heat the olive oil in another pan and when hot, add onions, garlic and ½ teaspoon of curry powder.
Sauté for a few seconds. Add the rice, sauté for a minute, then add some of the stock.
Cover and simmer for 12 minutes.
Check regularly and add stock slowly as needed (not all at once). During this time, have a quick check at the mussels and remove any that haven’t opened.
After the 12 minutes, add the tomato, dill, spearmint, pepper and the mussels.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Check regularly and stir gently from time to time. Add more stock until it’s finished. If more liquid is needed, use hot water from the kettle but very little at a time.
This meal is already salty enough but taste and add a little salt if needed.
Cook until rice is soft. Serve immediately with a green salad – except on Lent Monday, when side dishes like dolmades, butter beans, olives and chalva are obligatory!
Enjoy & “Kali Sarakosti” !!!
- If you cannot get fresh mussels in their shells, you can use frozen mussels without shells. In this case, use about 200 gr for 2 people. Again, you will need to put the liquid through a fine sieve with cotton wool inside as to catch any sand.
- Be generous with the dill and the spearmint – you won’t regret it!
Hungry for more? Browse through all my recipes here: https://effrosinimoss.wordpress.com/category/greek-recipes-2/
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