Mussels with tomatoes & ginger

by Roopa Gulati

A classic Keralan seafood dish


3 tbsp tamarind pulp
1kg mussels, in their shell, cleaned
75g ghee
2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 dried red chillies, broken
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp fresh curry leaves
2 red onions, diced
50g ginger, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
½ tsp turmeric
4 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 slit green chillies
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp coconut cream
3 tbsp chopped coriander


Soak the tamarind in enough boiling water to cover and leave to soften for 15 mins. Push the pulp through a sieve and discard any seeds and fibre. Leave the strained pulp on one side.

Clean the mussels under cold running water. Give any open ones a firm tap against the counter top and discard those that don’t close. Set aside.

Melt the ghee in a large saucepan set over a medium heat and then add the mustard seeds, broken red chillies (remove the seeds for a milder flavour), fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Swirl everything around for about 40 secs, until fragrant.

Add the diced onions, chopped ginger and sliced garlic to the pan and cook until softened, but not browned. Stir in the turmeric and after about 20 secs, add the chopped tomatoes and slit chillies. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and then tip in the mussels.

Turn up the heat and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for about 5-7 mins, until the mussel shells have opened. Discard any mussels that remain closed after cooking.

Pour in the coconut milk, add the cream, then bring the masala to a simmer before adding the strained tamarind pulp. Cook for 1 min further and finish with chopped coriander. 

Recipe: Roopa Gulati