Indian-spiced mussel, coconut and lentil soup recipe

Indian-spiced mussel, coconut and lentil soup
Coconut, chilli and turmeric add a lovely Indian spice to this dish Credit: Haarala Hamilton

There’s a certain anxiety about cooking mussels, but just make sure you follow the rules. Throw out any that are broken or chipped, any that don’t close when tapped before cooking and don’t open during cooking.

Prep time: 25 minutes | Cooking time: 40 minutes


Four to six


  • 400g mussels
  • 300ml dry white wine
  • 300ml dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp coconut or other oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3cm square piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated to a purée
  • 1 red and 1 green chilli, each halved, deseeded and finely sliced
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ x 400g tin cherry tomatoes in thick juice
  • 125g split red lentils
  • 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 1 x 200ml can coconut cream (optional)
  • Squeeze of lime, to taste
  • 3 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped


  1. Wash the mussels really well, scrubbing off barnacles and removing any beards. Tap each one on the side of the sink. If it doesn’t close when you tap it, throw it away.
  2. Put the mussels in a saucepan with the wine and sherry. Cover and set over a medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan a few times, until the mussels have opened (it should take about 4 minutes once the wine and sherry are hot).
  3. Strain the mussels, collecting the cooking liquor, then pour through a J-cloth-lined sieve. Throw away any of the mussels that haven’t opened.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until soft and pale gold. Add the ginger, garlic, chillis and dried spices and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, crushing them with the back of a spoon, then add the lentils, coconut milk and strained mussel liquor. Season. Bring to just under the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, by which time the lentils should have collapsed into a purée. You might like it as it is now but I add creamed coconut – it makes it richer. Heat this through, simmering for another couple of minutes.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add lime (it does the job of salt but also  ‘lifts’ the dish). Stir in the reserved mussels and the coriander and serve immediately.