Long before there were takeout tikkas and 15-minute Indian recipes online, Madhur Jaffrey was making the food of her native country accessible for English and American home cooks.
The Delhi-born, British-trained actor has published at least 29 cookbooks since 1973. She has educated us about the elements of an Indian meal, how to "paint" with spices and how to soothe and stimulate the palate with yogurt and chutneys.
This dish, rooted in the small western India state of Goa, predates the grocery-store availability of curry paste. The recipe calls for a handful of ingredients and just two ground spices. Jaffrey specified fresh coconut, but we found unsweetened, dried coconut is a suitable substitute and a timesaver. It becomes moist and chewy while the mussels steam to tenderness. Besides the coconut's boost of texture, we also liked its barely perceptible sweetness -- as opposed to the more recent trend of relying on canned coconut milk to fulfill that flavor profile.
Serve with nan, and prepare to slurp.