Stuffed Mussels

Midye Dolması

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Yashim Cooks Istanbul

Yashim Cooks Istanbul

By Jason Goodwin

Published 2016

  • About

One of the slowly disappearing sights of Istanbul is the mussel man, with his tray of gleaming great mussels stuffed with rice and currants. In Yashim’s day there were many wandering snack merchants, right down to men who sold offal on sticks, which people would buy to feed to the street dogs. That was a meritorious act, as is stuffing your own mussels and serving them cool to your friends.

Ingredients

  • olive oil 1 tbsp
  • butter 1 tsp
  • large onions 2, chopped fine
  • pine nuts 2 tbsp
  • long grain rice 150 g/5 oz
  • tomato 1, peeled and chopped
  • currants 1 tbsp
  • sugar 1 tsp
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fresh chilli 1, chopped, or pul biber 1 tsp.
  • cinnamon pinch
  • allspice pinch
  • nutmeg pinch
  • turmeric ½ tsp
  • lemon juice 2 tbsp
  • mussels 25 large

Method

  • In a frying pan melt oil and butter, and soften the onion with the pine nuts.
  • Stir in the rice and cook for three minutes. Stir in the tomato, and as it starts to soften add the currants, sugar, salt, pepper and spices, with a squeeze of lemon and boiling water to drench the rice, but not quite cover it. Clap on the lid and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice al dente – a few minutes at most. Give it a stir, taste for seasoning-more heat? More lemon? Salt? – and set aside to cool.
  • Clean the mussels, removing beards and discarding any that will not close when given a sharp rap on the side of the sink. As they are done, drop them into a bowl of warm salty water, to encourage them to open.
  • Slide a knife between the jaws of each mussel, close to the hinge, and run it around, taking care not to break the shells apart completely. With a little flip, lay them out flat on their backs in a pan to catch any liquid. The best tool for the job is an old-fashioned, flat-bladed table knife, the sort with a bone handle – firm and slim enough to persuade the shell open, not sharp enough to cut you when you slip.
  • Loosely fill the half-shells with your fingers, or a spoon, and close the mussels: a swipe with your thumb may help to seal them. Stack them in layers in a shallow saucepan. Add any remaining liquid, or a splash of water, pop a plate directly on top of the mussels to keep them firmly in place, and cover the pan. Simmer for fifteen minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add a little hot water.
  • Take the mussels off the heat. Real pros will give them a lick of oil to make their coats shine. Serve cool, with lemons – unless you’d prefer them hot.