Tuesday, 12 June 2007
A Restorative Broth
Nigella Lawson would call this Temple Food. I call it common sense. A heady broth that masks a virtually fat free meal. It relies on aromatic ingredients that take mere moments of preparation. Deeply comforting bowl food that permits guilt free second helpings. Best of all it is ready in minutes. I generally keep all the ingredients on hand with the exception of the mussels. I buy kaffir lime leaves in large packets from an Asian market and freeze them. Don't look shocked, the aroma keeps remarkably well. Near instant gratification.
It's the aromatic kaffir lime leaves that really make this dish and feel free to increase the quantity. I find the scent somehow more refined than lemongrass, closer to lime zest. The leaves themselves are certainly more elegant in appearance with their double-leaf structure that doesn't look unlike a figure eight. The leaf is probably best known for its uses in Thai cooking but also features in Indian and Indonesian dishes. This dish will also be my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Rachel of Rachel's Bite.
Mussels in Aromatic Broth
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 lemongrass stalk- outer layer peeled and sliced lengthwise (optional, the broth won't suffer without it)
1 small knob ginger roughly sliced
2 cloves garlic smashed and sliced
4-6 cups stock or water and a stock cube (I use a Vietnamese brand with a strong five spice hit)
1 whole chilli
200g/7oz mussels (I used Tasmanian because I find them plumper and sweeter)
200g/7oz fresh rice noodles (I use a fairly thin one as the thick flat kind seem out of place here)
chopped spring onions
finely diced red chilli (I use the vinegary jar kind)
In a large pot bring the stock to the boil with the chilli, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, if using. Allow to infuse for as long as you can wait, ten minutes should do. Don't add any salt at this stage as the mussels generally do this. Pour in the mussels, turn down the heat and pop on the lid. They should steam open in mere minutes.
In serving bowls place a small pile of the fresh rice noodles. At this stage you can remove the ginger and kaffir lime leaves if you wish but being the rustic (read lazy) cook that I am, I don't bother. Pour over the broth. Fresh rice noodles should only take 30 seconds to 1 minute to cook through in the hot broth. Spoon over a serving of mussels and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Garnish with coriander leaves, spring onions and red chilli.