Original dishes to surprise your friends "

Some times when I invite friends over for lunch, as a starter I love to place a big bowl of freshly-steamed mussels in the middle of the table and watch what happens. Some just dive in with gleeful abandon while the shellfish newbies hang back to see how it's done. Either way, soon everyone is grabbing mussels from the bowl, slurping from the shells, and sponging chunks of bread to sop up the sauce. It's a happy, playful scene that never fails to get the lunch started. To steam a quick batch of mussels for a lunch starter is nothing but a bit of white wine, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, and a chopped shallot. The mussels themselves require little preparation. Most mussels that you find at the seafood counter are farm-raised, which is a sustainable choice for mussels, and they are already pretty clean when you pick them up. Most just need a quick scrub and a check for the "beard" before they're ready to be cooked. Mussels are best consumed on the same day you buy them. Until you're ready to cook, store them in the coolest part of the fridge. Be sure to remove the packaging around the mussels to allow airflow so the mussels can breathe. Discard any mussels with broken shells, that don't close up within a few minutes after you tap them gently on the counter, or that don't open after cooking.

 Goa Mussel Curry

It's funny that normally at the end of the day, when one is relaxed and stretched out in the comfort of the couch, one of the most common thoughts that come to mind is food. Last week after finishing our evening tea, Luisa looked at me from her corner of the couch  and  said: "Toni, do you know what I would love for lunch tomorrow?" Nope, I answered. To which she replied with a smile on her face. "I'm craving for an Indian-style dish ... some curry would be nice!!" What is on your mind I asked. She responded that I should surprise her. Well! I never spend a lot of time making curry recipes and has I've mentioned before curry is not one of my favourite dishes. Nevertheless I do prepare Indian recipes once in a while because Luisa loves Indian food, especially from Goa. The spicy, succulent recipes from Goa are as famous as the golden beaches and lush landscape of this premier tourist destination of India. Traditionally, the Goan staple was fish curry and rice, but under Portuguese influence there developed a distinctive cuisine that combined the flavours of Indian and European cooking with local ingredients being used to approximate the authentic Portuguese taste. I normally find assistance in a great recipe book. "The Essential Goa Cookbook" by Maria Teresa Menezes. After browsing through it, I came across a recipe for mussel curry and decided to  make some changes but respecting the mix of the sweet and aromatic flavours, of the original recipe. This version uses my standard steamed mussel technique and combines it with flavours from Goa (India) to create a dish whose basic process is pretty much identical to the traditional version, but whose end results are entirely different. All it takes is some curry paste, some coconut milk, and a few other odds and ends. Since mussels cook fast anyway, it's a quick and great recipe.

Ingredients: 2kg of fresh mussels,1 large chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon of Indian saffron, 1 teaspoon cumin,1 tablespoon full of curry powder, 2.5 dl of coconut milk,1 tablespoon butter, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander, 2 peeled and chopped medium size tomatoes  piri-piri ( a little drop if you want )1 tablespoon of sider vinegar, salt to taste. Preparation: Rinse and stir mussels under cold running fresh water. Mussels naturally open and close their shells when out of the water. For any mussels that do not close after rinsing, tap their shells or lightly squeeze them while running under the water again. For any mussel that still does not close, throw it away. Place an empty pot on the stove and add some extra virgin olive oil.. Turn on the heat to high. Add the mussels to the pot and cover with the lid. Keep temperature to high. Cooking will take around  5 minutes. .When the steam is pouring out from under the lid of the pot for 15 seconds, they are done! Let  them cool for a few minutes and then tip the contents into a bowl remove mussels from the shells, wipe them and set aside. Inside a mortar crush the garlic cloves until they are mashed, next the coriander, add the saffron, ginger, cumin, curry and vinegar. Mix well, add a few tablespoons of water and stir until it forms a paste, reserve. In a  large pan, sauté the butter with the olive oil and onion. When it begins  begin to brown, add the tomato, stir and let it braise a little. Next, add coconut milk, and the previously prepared curry paste. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes, season with salt, add the shelled mussels, and allow to cook for another 3 minutes add a bit of warm water to sauce if necessary. Serve with basmati rice and steamed broccoli.

Ingredients for basmati rice: 1 1⁄2cups basmati rice, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1  cinnamon stick (2 inch), 2  green cardamom pods, 2 whole cloves,1 tablespoon cumin seed, 1 teaspoon salt (optional),2 1⁄2cups water, 1 small onion, thinly sliced. Preparation of Basmati Rice - Indian Style: Place rice into a bowl with enough water to cover. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes. Do not skip this step, it’s very important. Heat the extra virgen olive oil in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the onion to the pot. Sautee the onion until a rich golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the water from the rice, and stir into the pot. Cook and stir the rice for a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Add salt and water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork  also remove the pods, cloves, cinnamon stick before serving.