If you want a romantic dinner for a special occasion on a sensible budget, this is it. Our local fishmonger provided 1.5kg of exceptionally fresh live mussels for £6, which we steamed in a spicy, fragrant, coconut infused liquor for one of the tastiest meals I’ve had in a while.

Last weekend we made a batch of Sri Lankan roasted curry powder from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, to use in a filling for stuffed roti. The curry powder has already been used again as part of a spiced lentil dish, and today it was the turn of the mussels to be given the Sri Lankan treatment. The incredibly fragrant mixture of coriander, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, fenugreek, cloves, cardamon, mustard seeds and chillies proved a perfect complement to the delicate flavour of the shellfish.

We started with two chopped shallots, a couple of chopped garlic cloves, a generous piece of ginger and galangal (both finely chopped) and a fresh red chilli. This was saute-ed with a bruised stick of lemongrass until the shallots turned translucent. We then added a couple of heaped tablespoons of the spice mix and 80g of grated fresh coconut, stirring for another couple of minutes until the spices started to release their aroma.

Next we added a 400ml tin of coconut milk, 300ml water and 1.5kg of  cleaned and de-bearded mussels (as you can see from the photo, this was a fairly significant portion for two people!).  Once covered with a lid the mussels only took five minutes to steam to perfection.

If you’re feeling really extravagant, you could always serve it with some crusty bread to soak up the juices but we didn’t really feel like we needed any more calories after polishing off enough mussels to fill our largest pan (the one we usually use to make stew for 20).