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Cockles with Tomato, Pastis & Parsley

A Gill Meller recipe for clams or he also suggests mussels. It was cockles on Friday in our local fish shop and they work just as well too. These are boozy and they taste strongly of pastis which we enjoyed immensely and gave the whole dish a real clarity of flavour.

Wine Suggestion: Quite often we’d suggest white wine with seafood, and you’d be right here too. However, this doesn’t mean red can’t work just as well, you need to make sure it isn’t too heavy and has a natural freshness of acidity … like from a cooler vineyard region. Tonight we opened the Dezat Sancerre Rouge which is made from Pinot Noir and is joyful and deliciously ripe while remaining pure and fresh. A good complement to the tomatoes and sea flavours and a match to the anise of the pastis.

Cockles with tomato, pastis & parsley – serves 2

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 100ml pastis or Pernod
  • 1kg cockles (or clams or mussels), washed and throw away any with broken or open shells
  • 2 to 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat a large, heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil, then add the onion and garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 6-8 minutes or until soft but not coloured.

Add the lemon zest, fennel seeds, bay leaves and rosemary and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, then half fill the empty tin with water and pour this in too. Add the sugar, season again, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring, often, until rich and thick.

Add the pastis and turn the heat up. When the liquid is boiling, add the cockles, stir once, give the pan a good shake, then cover with a tight lid.

Cook for 3-4 minutes (shaking occasionally), or until all the shells have opened. Throw away any that remain closed. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley.

(Original recipe from Time by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

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