Dill-battered mussels with red tarator sauce

Dill-battered mussels with red tarator sauce

Lisa Cohen and William Meppem

All around Istanbul’s fish markets and along the quaysides of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of fried mussels and garlic. The mussels are often cooked on skewers in big metal drums full of spattering oil, and then served with a garlicky tarator sauce.

Tarators are thick sauces made from ground nuts, garlic and lemon juice or vinegar. Ranging from delicate to fiercely pungent, they are the definitive accompaniment to fried mussels and are also served with other fried or poached fish, and fried or steamed vegetables.

You’ll find red pepper paste in Middle Eastern food stores.

Fried mussels


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and roughly sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 red bullet chilli, split
30 mussels, cleaned and bearded
few sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
100ml white wine
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
200ml beer
1/3 cup self-raising flour
pinch bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
2 ice cubes
plain flour
lemon wedges, to serve

Red tarator sauce

Quantity Ingredient
30g stale white bread, crusts removed
1 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon hot turkish red pepper paste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
60ml olive oil


  1. To make the red tarator sauce, soak the bread in a little cold water for 5 minutes, then squeeze out the excess water. Pulse the walnuts in a food processor to fine crumbs.
  2. Crush the garlic with the salt, then add to the food processor with the bread, vinegar, pepper paste and pepper. Pulse to combine well. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until the mixture comes together as a smooth sauce. Loosen the sauce with water until the consistency of pouring cream, then set it aside to let the flavours develop. It will thicken as it cools, and you may wish to thin it with a little more water.
  3. To prepare the fried mussels, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan, then sauté the onion, garlic, celery and chilli for a few minutes until they soften. Add the mussels with the herbs and wine, then cover and bring to the boil. Cook on a high heat for about 4 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until the mussels open. Discard any that refuse to open.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan or deep fryer to 200ºC. Whisk the beer, self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and dill to make a light batter. Add the ice cubes, which keep the batter cold and help make it really crisp. In batches of six, dust the mussels lightly with plain flour, then dip them into the batter and fry for 2–3 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful as the oil will splutter and spit a lot. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to drain on kitchen paper – keep them warm while you fry the remaining mussels. Serve piping hot with the tarator sauce and lemon wedges.
Middle Eastern
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again