Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Saffron Mussel Stew

When I was first testing this dish for my new book, I kept thinking it was missing something. One conversation on the phone with my dad, and he picked up on it instantly: add saffron, he said. It will give it depth and aroma. He was, of course, as always, right. This is a super simple dish to make, perfect for a fall evening when the weather is getting cold and you feel like something warm and spicy to comfort and soothe you. Buy a nice loaf of crusty bread to mop up this curry. The recipe is from my book Modern Spice, Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen (Simon & Schuster 2009).

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1⁄2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

20 fresh curry leaves*

2 or 3 small green serrano chilies, finely chopped

1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander powder

1 1⁄2 cups chicken broth

1⁄4 cup heavy cream

1 pound frozen mussels on the half-shell (or 1 1/2 pounds fresh)**

Table salt

A few strands of saffron

*Curry leaves are available at most Asian sand Indian markets.

**To clean fresh mussels, soak in cold water for an hour. Discard any that open up. Remove beards and rinse well. Pat dry and proceed with the recipe.

In a deep saucepan, heat the oil over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and green chilies. Saute for 4 to 6 minutes, until the onion begins to change color.

Add the turmeric and coriander. Mix well and saute for another 30 seconds.

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the cream. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Transfer to a blender and blend to a smooth consistency. If you like an even smoother texture, pass the mixture through a sieve. I prefer not to do so.

Return the sauce to the saucepan and bring to another gentle boil.

Add the mussels and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, shaking the saucepan occasionally.

Add salt to taste and the saffron threads and mix well. Serve hot.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit