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Thai mussels

2 September 2004

Interesting times: I wake every morning in a fit of near-terminal depression, and come the evening I tend to be feeling fairly good about myself. Mostly, I guess this is because (a) I have far too much to do and no prospect of a break is visible, hence clouds of gloom etc, but (b) I am quite steadily getting things done. Theyíre not all programmed, either; I do still find the space for random events. As, for example, this:

Iíve been spending most of my days in town, working in the Lit & Phil or else in the pub, being with friends at the movies or else in the pub, having meetings at the Lit & Phil and at the Arts Council and - surprise! - in the pub. And some of these engagements involve lunch, and at one of the lunches I asked for the Thai-spiced mussels, and was - no surprise at all - rather disappointed with what came. Lots of fresh hot chilli, which was nice, but no other identifiable spice, and not really much else at all. So today I bought some mussels and gathered together those things that are fundamentally Thai - lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk, Kaffir lime leaves - and did the thing properly on my own account. And it took about ten minutes, and of course itís not authentic but it tasted really good. And as I have turned over an old leaf and am dutifully recording recipes these days, it went something like this:

Simmer half a litre of duck stock (or chicken, of course, but I had duck) with fresh red & green chillies (in this house, "fresh" means just-plucked from the plant on the windowsill; try it next year, cayenne seeds are easy and fruitful for months), half a stalk of lemongrass (from the back yard), garlic (ditto - Iíve grown some really magnificently small cloves, that I just use whole), shredded galangal (or ginger if you can't get it) and lime leaves (love the way they grow in pairs, one sprouting from the tip of the other). Put a ladleful of the liquid in another pan, bring to the boil and put in your mussels. Clap a lid on and give it a shake. Drop some noodles, some chopped spring onions and a handful of cherry tomatoes into the stock, and give the mussels another shake. Add half a tin of coconut milk (assuming you donít live in coconut country; if you do, go milk a coconut) to the stock, give the mussels another shake and have a look. If theyíre fully open and the meats look luscious, then theyíre done. Toss them and their cooking liquid in with the noodles, tip the whole into a big big bowl and eat it. Messily.

Food like that just makes me happy.

And meanwhile Iíve almost finished the rewrites on the novel, only two weeks later than I said; and I've been having good meetings about this big ghost-story project Iím trying to get off the ground, which I donít want to talk about because Iím superstitious. Well, Iím not, not really - but I will blame myself mightily if I lose it now, and will cast around for unlikely reasons and might well end up with "I knew I shouldnít have said anything in the weblog, just asking for trouble, that is; talk about counting chickens: cluck cluck one, cluck cluck two...í"


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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.