This week’s fish fight recipe is made using the wonderful sustainable clam. As is the case with most shellfish, as long as you know the rules clams are super simple and quick to cook. And also incredibly delicious. Before you cook them they must be alive which means their shells will be tightly closed (because they are hiding from you). If any of the shells are open, give the clam a tap on the surface and if it’s still alive it will close up. However, if it remains open you have to chuck it, along with any that have broken shells. Once cooked, it’s a whole different story….the shells must be open. Simple.
Most of the clams you buy these days have been purged for sand, however if not you may need to soak them in a bucket of salted water for an hour or so. Make sure the outside of the clams are clean before cooking them as well.
I’ve decided to go for a clam chowder recipe as James and I speant some time in New England last summer for a very good friend’s wedding. I loved the chowder even though the waitresses could never understand what I was ordering (I think it’s said something like chaaawdah). The clams in America are much much bigger (like the cars, the cokes, the burgers) – at least double the size, if not triple. Anyway, this recipe is pretty hearty and I’m sure anyone from New England would gawk at it. I believe that it’s seen as something of a regional pride with quite strict rules as to what does and doesn’t go into it, to the extent that a bill was passed at some point making it illegal to put tomatoes in Maine Chowder. Bit severe perhaps? So at the risk of being locked up, here’s a British take on their delicious dish.
1 onion, diced
1 stick celery, diced
150g smoked bacon, diced
350g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2cm cubes
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp flour
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme, plus extra for garnish
Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan. Soften the onion and celery with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and the garlic and cook for ten minutes, stirring frequently. After about 8 minutes, stir through the flour.
Meanwhile, check all the clams are closed and there are no broken shells. Add to a seperate pan with the wine and water, cover and bring up to the boil. Cook for about 3 minutes, until all the shells have opened. Strain the cooking liquid into the pan with the potatoes, add the bay and thyme and let bubble away for 10-15 minutes (until the potatoes are tender).
While that’s cooking away, remove most of the clams from their shells. Keep a few in for garnish. Once the potatoes are ready, stir through the clams and the double cream. Season with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve scattered with some thyme leaves.