Herblay, January 17, 2016
To start the new year off, I thought I’d share a recipe that has become a staple here at home. It’s easy and is as good for a crowd as for a romantic dinner for two. I’ve made it with an assortment of seafood for special occasions (see note at the end) but mostly I make it with humble little cockles that I get fresh from our local market. Cockles are cheap, delicious and easy to deal with! You can use canned baby clams too but you’ll miss the wonderful sound this makes when you serve it up. I adore noisy food!
The recipe I based mine on is from my well-stained, well-loved copy of Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver. Here goes.
For 4 hungry people (main course)
1/2 to 1 litre of fresh cockles, clams, mussels-one type or a combination-this quantity is a guideline-even ten little shells per person is fine or if you feel like pushing the boat out double the amount. Then your dish is Luscious Seafood with Linguine. It’s up to you.
best olive oil you can afford
dried chilli flakes – Jamie says, not too much – I say, bring it on!
1 or 2 cloves garlic depending on size – sliced very thinly
1 or 2 anchovy fillets – rinse and dry to get rid of excess oil and salt. If you and yours hate anchovies, you can leave it out but it would be a shame because the anchovy blends in with the other flavours and adds richness.
cherry tomatoes – halved – OK, this is another, up to you, quantity. It used to be that cherry tomatoes were all about the same size which is no longer the case. They range from the size of a marble to the size of a golf ball with walnut size in between. I use about ten walnut sized cherry tomatoes for four people.
generous quarter cup flat leaf parsley or coriander – sure, I know coriander isn’t Italian but it tastes really good in this recipe – you might like basil or thyme – personally, I’d stick to one clean flavour rather than mixing – again, the choice is yours.
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500 grams best quality linguine approx (1 pound) – this seems like a bit of a lot and every time, I tell myself maybe it’s too much but it always disappears. Also, I have given up buying cheap pasta, and it’s amazing the difference it makes.
Here’s what you do:
When you bring home your shells, get them out of the plastic bag; put them in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate. Do this with any fish or seafood. About half an hour before you want to start cooking, cover the cockles with water and a tablespoon or so of salt. Let sit.
Heat your frying pan, add a couple of glugs of olive oil. Throw in the chilli flakes, garlic and anchovies. Don’t let the garlic brown. The anchovies will melt in the oil. Squeeze the cherry tomatoes so their juice and ‘guts’ go into the pan before putting in the rest of the tomato. Cook this over medium heat for about five minutes. You can prepare to this stage a bit ahead of time.
Get a great big pot of salted water to a nice rolling boil. Add the linguine. Rinse the cockles with lots of fresh water, shake off the excess and add to the pan. Shake the pan to get the cockles in an even layer and then cover. Shake from time to time. After a few minutes, check to see if the shells are open. Those little guys will have given up their juices and you will have a lovely light and fragrant sauce. If they are open, transfer them to a large serving dish while the linguine finishes cooking. When it’s done, strain the pasta and toss everything together in the serving dish with the fresh herb of your choice. Alternatively, leave the sauce in the frying pan and cook the linguine a couple minutes short of recommended time. It will be very ‘al dente’. Finish cooking it in the sauce. This is Jamie Oliver’s way and it’s really good but difficult if you double the recipe.
Bring to the table and enjoy the beautiful sounds of the shells as you serve. Bon ap!
Note: Using this basic recipe you can add all kinds of different seafood for a special treat – just be careful of the time needed to cook each element so nothing is over or under cooked.