And it isnt what you think! Read the story here and come back to my blog and leave a comment on what you think! I am going to choose a random winner from the comments list and send them a copy of Modern Spice so they can cook or their family. It seems like the right thing to do. Doesnt it? 

Winner will be picked today at 4:00 pm EST

Here is one of the recipes that is featured with the story:

Saffron Mussel Stew from my book Modern Spice 

05_SA_IndCkBk_Mussels-028Photo courtesy Simon & Schuster

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.

You may also like...


  1. I loved the NPR article! I cook all sorts of things from complicated recipes in cookbooks, but there is nothing like my Mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese or her buttercream icing (both made via “estimation cooking”) or even just her grilled cheese sandwich. Why is it that it never tastes the same when I make it? I don’t have children yet but in a few years when I do, I too hope to give them wonderful food memories.

  2. Hi Monica, I recently bought your wonderful Book! I’m definitely going to try this recipe, I love mussels and I can imagine how they would taste with the flavors of Saffron & Curry leaves! Amazing!

  3. My mother often complains about me not cookign for her and I just forwarded your article to her. I loved the last paragraph which had my eyes moist. That is the power of great writing like yours.
    I also vividly remember your butter chicken article. One of the best pieces I have ever read!

  4. When I would come home to visit my parents, my mom always had food ready on the kitchen table: Brisket, cooked baby carrots, roasted potatoes, good dark bread. She cooked without recipes or measuring cups. But she died 15 months ago and now my dad manages by cooking salmon in the toaster oven and eating out a lot at his favorite little Italian restaurant where they know him by name. I returned last month, starving after my cross-country flight, and was shocked when I opened the fridge. It was nearly empty. I took that as a sign. I had to be my mother now. And so after consulting my favorite cookbook, which I gave her years ago, I went grocery shopping. When I returned I made a baked lemon chicken with barley and a big pot of lentil soup. I bought cheese and fruit, asparagus and sweet potatoes and wine. As I started chopping and braising, slowly the house began to feel once again like the home stored in my memories..

  5. What I think is that I need your cookbook immediately if not sooner. I clicked through from that article to the npr one on the butter chicken and I was almost drooling. I’m going to be trying out your adaptation of that one tonight. Bookmarking your blog, too. Thanks!

  6. this looks fabulous……definitley trying this……frozen mussels caught me off guard.(first time I have seen that in a recipe!)- in nyc you don’t see the bearded ones anymore ..think they are mostly all farm raised.

    what a great way to prepare them…..I can almost taste that sauce!

  7. Monica, your food and recipes look amazing!! This is definitely a book that needs to be on my kitchen shelf!

    They type of food I cook is very different from what my mother made. Her’s was basic, hearty American food and she wasn’t much into spices. But she could bake! I have vivid memories of standing in our kitchen in my pj’s, flour all over, the windows steamed by the heat against the frosty winter weather on the other side…and the smell of fresh baked cookies permeating the entire house. Those were perfect moments. I can close my eyes and I’m there again. It’s a memory I cherish.

  8. Great article – in fact I’m sharing it on my FB page!

  9. I loved your article! You cook for the same reasons I cook — to leave memories for our children. My fondest memories are cooking and eating with my family and I want those same memories for my children. This goes to show no matter what culture we grow up with its important to instill our culture in our children, and what better way than with food. Great article!

  10. Lovely article, Monica! I love going home to my Mum’s cooking. It’s simple and lightly flavoured, but always fresh and delicious. Isn’t wonderful how comforting it is to be transported back to your childhood? Even when I imagine visiting my parents (so far away in London), I immediately feel a sense of longing for those simpler days of childhood and for the food that nourishes the soul. I love Leonard’s comment (above). A home doesn’t feel like a home unless it is filled with the smell and the warmth of a home cooked meal. Good for you Leonard, for cooking for your father!
    I must confess, Monica, I have not bought your book yet. But I have taken it out of the library several times. In fact when I checked it out again last night, I had a lovely conversation with the librarian about your blog and your recipes!
    All the best! oxo

  11. Lovely piece, as always.

    I can vouch for Monica’s book. It’s wonderful!

  12. Monica,

    It’s just been 8 months since I am married. Now I live in Minneapolis and my parents, in India. It was only after I moved here that I started investing a lot of time for my food blog, Ria’s Collection. My dad, is the most regular reader of my blog and he wonders why I didn’t cook ‘this’ or ‘that’ when I was home. And now,whenever we are over the phone and I tell him that I am cooking something, he tells me,’Don’t forget the way you cook it… because when you come for your vacation, you are going to cook it for me and Amma is going to take rest’. 🙂 I was so touched by that!


  13. I have made your father’s butter chicken recipe countless times and it has come out amazingly well every single time, thank you! I like reading your thoughtful pieces, it reminds me of childhood in a bittersweet way, and why they say you can never go back home again.

  14. Monica,
    The NPR article is a great reminder of the threads of life and how we pass on traditions from generation to generation. Food and ingredients are such an important part of family traditions also. BTW, the Saffron Mussel Stew is amazing!

    Bon appetit!

  15. What a lovely article, Monica. My parents both worked quite a bit when I was a child, so when we sat around the table, it was usually for a special meal. Those meals, and the dishes that we ate, are forever part of my best memories because we were together. I too long for some of the meals my Mom made for us. I make very different meals than my Mom used to make and she always shakes her head and asks where I learned to cook. I look at her warmly and tell her that she was, and continues to be, one of my biggest inspirations.

  16. Yeah, can’t believe a few folks didn’t ‘get it!’ (I read the NPR comments). Nothing like mom’s/dad’s cooking, delicious or not!

  17. The Saffron House Mussels stew is so Yummy

  18. The winner is Ria! Ria, please email me and I will send you a copy of the book!

  19. I recently visited with my mother and since we are separated by almost 2000 miles, my visits are rare. We spent our meal times cooking our family favorites from when I was growing up. I don’t cook much like my mother anymore, but when we are together, it seems that the old favorite recipes are what we use to reconnect. Thank you for putting into words the emotions I felt cooking with my mother.

  20. First of all, a wonderfully heartwarming article and I can relate and know exactly what you mean. It is the simple foods from home that give us comfort. When I went away to college and would return home on vacation, my parents would ask what I want to eat and it wasn’t the complicated dishes my parents cooked for special occasions like Lambi (Haitian dish of stewed conch) or my Mom’s Curry Chicken (from Aruba). All I would ask for was rice and beans – that ubiquitous Caribbean standard that is served with every meal. Rice and Kidney beans flavored with onion, clove and garlic was all I would eat – I would skip the meat!

  21. Such a pleasure reading this article. I love the concept of Andaza cooking – I am going to borrow that term because that is exactly how my mother cooks. She is such an excellent cook, but it is extremely difficult to learn to cook from her. She will add a little bit or this or a little bit of that and I have to watch her like a hawk if I want to take it all in.
    Your parents’ recipes sound dreamy.
    I love your book Modern Spice too.

  22. Monica,
    This beautiful article brought tears to my eyes.

  23. Monica, had a tear in my eyes as I read thru your column, like you I grew with a father who was a world traveller and best home cook ever, I feel the same as you do that I can never match up to him or fear of being criticized , every time they visit me in US dad and mom take reigns of my kitchen to create their master pieces just a way to show their the love in the best way they can., this summer took a vow to treat them to my kitchen creations ?

  24. Those kebabs look divine! I’ve been looking for a recipe for desi-style meatballs to go with spaghetti as my family loves fusion food – these might just be what I’m looking for! If you have an alternate recipe, please do share.

    My most treasured memories are of my mother cooking her food in my kitchen after my second son was born. Her cooking nourished me in so many ways. She would serve me hot chapattis with ghee and fresh stir-fried vegetables and daal at every meal.

    Now when I see my four year-old smile and declare “this is yummy” after tasting something I’ve made, I know I’m making similar memories!

  25. I loved the article and it reminded me of one of the many reasons that I miss my mother. She died very young, a long time ago. I was already an adult and we often would cook together. I cook far more difficult things than she ever did. She was a far superior cook though. My dad was a very picky and plain eater. So she didn’t get to experiment much. Anyone who can make a plain roast chicken and mashed potatoes taste like the best you ever had, is a genius.

  26. A very dear friend ..who is also a Celebrity Chef shared with me “When I walk into my kitchen , I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.” It is all so very true

  27. Just got the book from amazon last week, I can’t make up my mind about what’s more interesting.. the stories or the recipes. Its astonishing how you’ve broken down recipes to such an elegant & simple form in a language that reaches out to the American audiences without overwhelming them…
    And the south Indian in me is QUITE perplexed as to why you would only want to buy commercial Sambhar powder even as I aspire to make my own garam masala instead reaching out for a packet of MDH GM at the local Patel’s!!

    Absolutely LOVE the book..

    1. Thanks so much. I am so honored that you like the book! Also, you won Jill’s book. I will have it sent to you.

      1. WOW!! Thanks so much!!
        Its (present tense intentional) a pleasure to read your book, (The Chaat masala story is my personal favorite!)’ve brought out the essence of foodie memories so well that anyone reading it instantly sees themselves in those incidents. It touches emotional chords in such a beautifully personal way!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.