Friday, 12 April 2013

Razor Clam Spaghetti Vongole

Every now and again I pop up to Church Street market and see what's new in. The market is a bit crappy and very functional - no Portobello Road antiques or Marylebone farmers market Jerusalem artichokes here; because this market is for local people, buying day-to-day food at knock-down prices. There is, of course, the odd exotic bargain to be purchased, which is the sort of exception which makes the rule.

At one of the three fish stalls dotted down the street (it's the one outside the manky pub where my dad bought me my first beer - I was about twelve. How times have changed - now, twelve year olds take drugs, probably) the fishmonger normally selling 'four bream or sea bass for a tenner', happened to have some fresh razor clams in at £8 per kilo.

I've never cooked razor clams before, but how hard can it be? Just steam them like other clams and eat them, right?

Well, you could. But then you would be eating a ton of black gunk that sits in their guts, and your dinner would be ruined. Therefore a little dissection is going to be needed between par-cooking them, and gently re-heating them in the sauce. That being said, the meats are sweet, tender and delicious, and the shells make a fantastic garnish talking point. As you can see from the photo, I re-assembled the cleaned cooked clams back into their shells 'for their close-up, daahling...'

Oh, one thing, you may get a bit attached to their antics, which may make them hard to kill without feeling a bit guilty and sad. I bought the razors, put them in a big pot of fresh water to purge them, and then watched as their little noses poked out of their shells to check out their new environment. Inquisitively, I picked up a clam, and it spat a stream of water six feet across my kitchen! Brilliant!

Oh well, can't be a wuss about these things. As much as I quite liked having some molluscan pets for an hour or two, their necessary despatch ended up with me and Mrs Ribeye enjoying one of my best ever home-cooked seafood dishes. And so easy to prepare too, with very few ingredients to make an authentic Italian vongole.

As far as vongole is concerned, the dish should be 'blanco', not thickly red from tomatoes (the way they always seem to serve it in 'Italian-style restaurants' Or tins.) No, the dish should be light and fresh, with a hint of spice from a fresh chilli, fragrant from a light white wine, and carpeted in fresh parsley.

Cost wise, razor clams are about half the price in Church Street than anywhere else in London, I reckon. For two people, 750g is adequate - about 4-5 clams each. The dish may look fantastic and taste luxurious, but at £3 per serving, it's another Potless miracle.

Serves 2


750g razor clams, in their shells
75ml olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fat red chilli, finely chopped
125ml dry white wine
300g cooked spaghetti
Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

Wash the clams in plenty of cold water and leave to stand for an hour or two, then drain. In the meantime, in a hot pan, fry the garlic and chilli in the olive oil until soft. Add the wine to the pan and bring to the boil, and then  add the drained clams and cover the pan. Cook the clams for 4 minutes until they open, then remove from the pan. Leave the pan on the heat, to reduce the cooking liquor by a third, while you remove the intestinal sac and black gunk from the clams with a sharp knife. Chop the clam meats into bite-sized pieces and add them to the clam liquor with the cooked spaghetti. Toss everything together and transfer to serving plates. Carpet with the parsley and  serve immediately (you can place some of the meats into a couple of reserved shells, for aesthetic effect, as pictured).

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