Bosphorus-Style Mussels with Tarama

Mıdye Tava

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

Anatolia

By David Dale and Somer Sivrioglu

Published 2015

  • About

If you wanted a glass of beer and a plate of fried food to soak up the alcohol, you’d go to a birane rather than a meyhane. The dish you’re most likely to find there is deep-fried mussels, where beer appears in the batter as well as in a glass.

The tradition is to serve the mussels with a tarator (dipping sauce) made with stale bread, walnuts and garlic. Our refined version includes the roe of grey mullet, which makes it a tarama (what the Greeks call a tarama salata ).

In Turkey, tarama is always light beige, because that’s the colour of the roe. I was surprised to find in Australia that tarama salata is pink—and then I learned that it is often artificially coloured. I do not recommend that you buy commercial tarama salata to serve with this dish. If you can’t find the grey mullet roe, make a simple tarator by replacing the roe with 100 g ( oz) of walnuts.

Ingredients

Tarama Sauce

  • 2 thick slices white bread
  • 100 g ( oz) mullet roe
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) olive oil
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) vegetable oil

Mussels

  • 16 blue mussels, scrubbed
  • 60 g ( oz/½ cup) chickpea flour (besan)
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) lager beer
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 75 g (2⅔ oz/½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt flakes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

Method

First make the tarama sauce. Remove the crusts from the bread and discard. Roughly chop the bread. Put the bread pieces in a mixing bowl and add about 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of water to just cover. Leave to soak for 1 minute, then remove the bread and squeeze out the water. Transfer to a food processor, add the roe, garlic and half the lemon juice, and pulse to make a paste. Mix the two oils together and gradually drizzle them into the mixture as it’s processing. After you’ve added about 100 ml ( fl oz) of the oils, loosen the mixture with 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water. Keep adding oil and iced water in similar amounts to completely emulsify, and finish by adding the remaining lemon juice. Set aside.

Sniff each mussel and if it has a strong smell, discard it. Place the mussels in a bowl and cover with boiling water. When they start to open (after about 5 minutes), scoop them out of the water. Using a knife with a point but a blunt edge, force open any shells that are not open enough and then pull all the mussels out of their shells. Snip off the beards and place the mussels on paper towel to drain.

Using eight 20 cm (8 in) long bamboo skewers, put two mussels, lengthways, on each skewer. Sift the chickpea flour into a wide bowl, pour in the beer and egg yolk and mix well. Whisk the egg white until soft peaks form and fold it into the flour mixture.

Sift the plain flour in a separate bowl and mix in the salt and pepper.

Pour the vegetable into a frying pan, about 2 cm (¾ in) deep and heat over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Toss the mussel skewers through the flour, shake off any excess flour, then dip in the batter. Fry four skewers at a time in the hot oil, using tongs to turn after 1 minute, then cook for 1 minute more until golden brown. Place the cooked skewers on paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Spread 2 tablespoons of tarama sauce onto one side of four plates. Place two skewers (four mussels) next to the sauce and serve.