Pilaf-stuffed mussels

Pilaf-stuffed mussels

Midye dolma

Steven Joyce

Mussel sellers are a fixture on the streets of Istanbul, sitting next to trays of cooked mussels stuffed with spiced rice pilaf. For just a few lira, you get a plump, orange mussel sitting in its shell; snap off the top half, squeeze some lemon juice over the mussel and rice in the bottom and use the top shell as a spoon to scoop out the filling.


Quantity Ingredient
24 large mussels
100g long-grain rice
20g butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon currants
1 teaspoon dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
200ml hot water, plus a little more to steam the mussels
lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Scrub and de-beard the mussels. Discard any that do not close if you tap them firmly, or have broken shells. Wash the rice in three changes of water, then cover with fresh cold water and soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a lidded pan large enough to cook the rice in and gently fry the onion, pine nuts and garlic with the salt for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the spices and cook for a further 2 minutes. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pan with the currants – cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes, until the rice is fully coated in the butter. Add the hot water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat as low as possible, cover tightly with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the dill and parsley.
  3. In a large pan, big enough to hold all the mussels, bring about 1 cm water to the boil over a high heat. Put the mussels into the pan, clamp a lid on and steam for 2–3 minutes. Remove the lid and drain the mussels. Discard any that have not opened. Set the pan back over the heat with the same amount of boiling water in again. Working quickly but carefully, because both the mussels and rice will be hot, stuff each mussel with a tablespoon or two of the rice mixture. Wipe any excess off the outside of the shell and gently press the two halves together – they won’t entirely close.
  4. Tuck the filled mussels tightly into a metal colander or a steamer and set over the boiling pan of water. Cover and steam for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl or individual plates. Serve piping hot with plenty of lemon wedges to squeeze over.
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