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)

To garnish
coriander leaves
chopped spring onions
finely diced red chilli (I use the vinegary jar kind)
fresh limes

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.


The Gourmand said...

Excellent work, Truffle! I too keep zip lock bags of kaffir lime leaves in the freezer. Great minds think alike...

The Gourmand said...

Excellent work truffle. I too keep Kaffir lime leaves in zip lock bags in the freezer. Great minds think alike...

Cindy said...

I must start hoarding kaffir lime leaves this way too! I already do it for bay leaves, curry leaves and a host of ground spices.

Anh said...

I kept the frozen kaffir lime leaves, too. I love the mussel broth. Must be very aromatic...

I think the use of lime leaves (and other herbs like lemon grass or Thai Basil) make a dish very Southeast Asian. And this is what I truly have the heart for! :)

Lucy said...

Common sense indeed. Mussels make one of the most delicious broths ever.

Lovely recipe.

Shayne said...

I jsut made mussels Friday and yum, were they good.

I have looked and looked in my area for Kaffir Lime leaves and no luck so I will oder them online when I need them next and I guess it looks as if I can put them in the freez.


Truffle said...

The Gourmand- They do indeed!

Cindy- I must try it with bay leaves! I am a terrible hoarder but I know if I have them on hand a deeply flavourful meal is only minutes away.

Anh- I agree! This is a bit of a bastardized version using all the Asian ingredients I generally have on hand but it somehow seems to work. While I adore mussels in a creamy white wine sauce with bucketloads of parsley the lighter Southeast Asian version is actually far more flavourful I think.

Thanks Lucy! I have recently received a book the only features mussel recipes so expect many more to come!

Shayne- They do freeze very well but can be expensive depending where you buy them. I would ask around at Asian supermarkets if you're looking for a bargain.

Cynthia said...

That pic looks like something out of one of those glossy food magazine. Beautiful photography.

I've never had this dish before but seen it made so many times on television.

Kalyn said...

Hey, I keep my kaffir lime leaves in the freezer too! Only mine are in a jar. My stepsister sends them to me from California. This sounds like a wonderful recipe. I love mussels so much! They ware something I loved the very first time I tried them.

Ellie said...

They look absolutely gorgeous! I'm a big fan of mussels but really don't have them often enough! I think this with some crusty bread to soak up the marvellous broth would be an exemplary meal!

Wendy said...

This makes me wish I liked mussels!

ilingc said...

My mum taught me the trick to store kaffir lime leaves in the freezer too.
I like the sound of your aromatic broth. It might just encourage my boyfriend's mum to eat mussels because of the asian flavours.:)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I can't eat mussels but your dish made my mouth water, Truffle! It looks wonderful!

Nora B. said...

I love mussels and this broth looks and sounds like a winner. I will make this next time rather than my usual (posted on my blog if you are interested: http://lifesmorgasbord.blogspot.com/2007/05/perfect-day.html). Thanks for sharing!

Susan said...

Great looking dish, Truffle. Mussels always arrange themselves so artfully in a bowl; they are an ideal still-life subject. I'm especially enamored when they're done up in Asian flavors.

Truffle said...

Cynthia- oh thank you! That's such a lovely thing to say.

Kalyn- I'm so glad to know I'm not alone on the kaffir lime leaves and to hear from another mussel lover.

Ellie- That's a fantastic idea and thanks! I think mussel soups and bread pair together perfectly.

Wendy- I think they're one of those love them or hate them foods although I was sitting on the fence for a few years when I was younger.

Ilingc- I hope they do! I think mussels take really well to Asian flavours.

Patricia- Sorry to be such a tease! Thanks for the kind words :)

Nora- your dish and your day look absolutely fantastic! What a wonderful view and that seafood looks exceptional.

Susan- I absolutely agree! They're a pleasure to photograph.

Little Foodie said...

Hi Truffle, As ever sounds delicious. I know the boys would love this too, but probably with only a tiny amount of chilli. I didn't know you could freeze kaffir lime leaves. I'll get some for the freezer from now on.

mark said...

i made this exact last night. I always pair mussels with tomato or white wine and lots of garlic, never thought of lime. it was exceptional! my noodles didn't really work out but the broth is a for sure keeper. thanks