• White wine and curry leaf mussels (Sarina Kamini)Source: Sarina Kamini

If India fell in love with France, this dish would be its lovechild. Adding fresh curry leaf to this classic dish adds a sweet and fragrant softness supported by the addition of a little extra spice.

Serves
4

Preparation

20min

Cooking

25min

Skill level

Easy
By
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Curry leaf is one of those spices where, for me at least, the fresh leaf is preferred. For spices like turmeric, chilli and ginger, both dried and fresh forms serve really integral and quite different functions. 

Curry leaf when consumed as a fresh leaf is bright, nutty and fragrant. Its aroma is sweet. Dried, the leaf loses some of its vibrancy. The beautiful thing about access to fresh curry leaf is that it’s so easy to grow. And once established, it’s prolific.  

Dried and fresh forms of spice have different entrance points to a dish. Dried spice - curry leaf included - is best tempered through a little fat before the produce joins the pot. Fresh leafy spices and herbs are great added to the pot or the pan toward the end of the cook. Used in this way, the fresh curry leaf will not only add flavour to the end result, but it will also serve to refresh the aromatics already present.

Curry leaf reminds me of high school in Bangalore, where the climate was temperate and the jungle that surrounded our school grounds rich with life. When I want to make food that tastes as rich as memory, curry leaf is where I go.

I use curry leaves in any dish where a little bit of a fresh and sweet finish will lift the end result.

With this in mind, use fresh curry leaf in lamb shank slow-cooks, when preparing chicken soup, in coconut-based dishes (an obvious inclusion) and - of course - with mussels or other delicately sweet seafood. 

Curry leaf top tips

• When using dried curry leaf, use a little less - one frond as opposed to two. The dried spice is more pungent and more easily inclined to default to bitter with overuse.

• Combine it with red chilli, tamarind or lime, salt, galangal or fresh ginger, nigella seed, coconut milk and fresh shallot for an easy curry base.

• In any recipe where you would normally use fresh coriander, use fresh curry leaf to change the tone of your dish in one easy step.

Ingredients

  • 3 tomatoes, cored and halved
  • 1 kg mussels, cleaned and bearded
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 -2 small shallots, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • ½ tsp ground red chilli
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp fine white salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ¾ cup of passata
  • ¾ cup of savoury white wine
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 2 fresh curry leaf fronds
  • 1 lemon or lime

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

  1. Cover the tomatoes with the boiled water and set them aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. 
  3. Add shallots and garlic to the pot and cook off for five minutes on medium heat, until fragrant and softened.
  4. While shallots are softening, strain the tomatoes of water, peel, and finely dice. Set aside.
  5. Add salt, black pepper, chilli and ground fenugreek to the pan of shallots and garlic. Temper spice for three minutes, until fragrant.
  6. Add the skinned and diced tomatoes, puree and passata. Cook for five minutes on medium heat, until warmed through. Stir through white wine.
  7. Finally, add mussels, ghee and fresh curry leaf. Cover the pot with a lid for five minutes until the mussels are open.
  8. Serve with sourdough and a wedge of lime or lemon.

 

'Not just curry' is a fortnightly recipe column on SBS Food lead by spice lover, Sarina Kamini. It shares the flavourful insights and potential behind a different spice that may be tucked away in your pantries and is celebrated with a brand-new recipe. Find out more here.

Photography, styling and food preparation by Sarina Kamini.