Turkish style fried mussels by Simone Watts

Mussels are one of the most sustainable seafoods you can choose and one of the most environmentally efficient sources of animal protein. Mussel farms require very little space and natural resources (no additional water or artificial feed is required, and there are very low carbon emissions over a production cycle) and they  provide additional shelter and habitat for a range of wildlife, while having relatively little impact on endangered species or the surrounding seabed. 

In some ways mussels actually clean the water they are grown in, converting nutrients that are washed off the land which might otherwise cause problematic ‘algal blooms’. The baby mussels – or ‘spat’ –  are caught in the wild or grown in specialised hatcheries, before being transferred onto the ropes (they attach themselves using special threads, the ‘beard’ found in most mussel shells) and ongrown for 1-2 years using only the nutrients and plankton in the currents in which the ropes are suspended.

Check them out in GoodFish: Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide

Turkish style fried mussels, yoghurt flatbread pockets & fermented ezme salsa

By Simone Watts
@simonewatts_chef

See Simone cooking this dish here!

Time: 1 hr including cooling time
Serves: Makes approximately 15 small pockets

The Mussels

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kg of mussels in shells
  • 1 shallot roughly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 green chilli sliced
  • 100ml water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Method

Roughly wash the mussels to remove any exterior mud, but don’t worry about removing the beards as this can be done at a later stage.

Pour the lemon juice and water over them in a small bowl together.

In a large heavy based saucepan (with a lid) heat the oil and then add the garlic, shallot and chilli.

Sweat them off together for a few minutes then add lemon zest and paprika.

Continue to cook everything together for a minute or so then turn the heat up to high.

Once sizzling, add your mussels along with the lemon juice and water in one hit and quickly place on the lid so the mussels steam open.

Leave closed for around 1 minute then open and stir and see if mussels have begun opening.

As the mussels open pull them out the liquid and transfer to the fridge so they cool down quickly.  Reserve the liquid and chill also.

Once mussels are cold use a small spoon to remove the mussels from their shell and be sure to pull out the beards.

Place cold mussels into the chilled cooking juices whilst you make the batter to continue marinating.

The Beer Batter 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cup beer (you can substitute this for soda if you don’t like beer batter)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1lt canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 cup plain flour for dusting

Method

Combine all of your dry ingredients (leaving the dusting flour separate) in a bowl, then whisk in the beer.

Allow to rest in the fridge whilst you heat your oil

In a medium sized pot add your oil and heat to 180 degrees. If you don’t have a temperature thermometer a good way to read when the oil is ready is to place a nut in the oil and wait until you can see it bubbling a frying.

Set up your dusting flour near the oil, and put aside a plate with some paper towel ready for after the mussels have been fried.

Drain the cooking liquid off the mussels, then dip each one into the flour (ensuring you shake off any excess) then dip into the batter followed by the hot oil.

Fry off around 4 mussels each time so they cook evenly and the oil doesn’t cool down too much. You’ll need to flip them over to make sure they cook evenly on each side.

For the Ezme Salsa

If you want to skip the fermentation part of this recipe, it also works really well as a simple salsa by combining all of the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 3 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 gloved garlic, crushed
  • 1 capsicum, finely diced
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 100ml olive oil
  • Sea salt

Method

Place the diced tomato, cucumber, chilli, shallots, garlic and capsicum on a chopping board and continue to run your knife over them until they are somewhat crushed together.

Get a clean bowl and some scales and weigh the total amount of diced salsa.

Once you have the weighed amount, work out 2% of the total weight (there’s simple online calculators to help with this).

Fold in the salt and transfer the salsa to a sanitised (I use boiling water with a touch of white vinegar) fermentation jar. If you don’t have one of these, just use a normal jar with a lid and I will demo how to ‘burp’ the jar in the demo.

Use some baking paper and a weight to ensure the salsa is immersed under it’s juice, then allow to sit for approx 5 days or until the mix begins to bubble.

Once the salsa is fermented, strain the extra liquid then transfer to a bowl. Add the chopped parsley, spices, then whisk in the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and oil.

For the Yoghurt Flatbreads 

This recipe can also be used to make large pita breads for souvlakis and also works really well as a pizza base! 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup plain flour for kneading/rolling

Method

Combine the flour with the baking powder and salt, then dollop the yoghurt and oil on top.

Stir the mix in together until it forms a sticky dough then turn out onto a workbench.

Use a little extra flour and continue to knead the dough until the outside becomes elastic and smooth.

Split the dough into 2 balls, then roll one ball out into a large sheet approximately 1mm thick. If it is too thick or too thin your pitas won’t puff up, so experiment a little first.

Place a frying pan on high heat until the pan is smoking, then add a couple of pitas.

They should begin to bubble up almost immediately. Once there are large bubbles forming, flip the pita to the other side. The aim is for them to puff up like little balloons.

Once you have made all of the pitas, use a small knife to make an incision at the top so you can peel them open to make little pockets.

TO ASSEMBLE

What you stuff into your pita pockets is entirely up to you!  I like to get a baby cos leaf, smear it in aioli, then add some dill sprigs and the ezme. The coz leaf works like a little spade to slide the mix into the pita before tucking in the mussels!

 

See Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, a free app available on IOS and Android, to help you decide when next you are choosing to buy seafood. 

The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s GoodFish project is a community of chefs, restaurants, fishers and wholesalers who work towards supporting healthier oceans. 

@goodfishproject

GoodFish.org.au