Posh food for free..well almost! Spaghetti with Pan Fried Clams:
If you are lucky enough to live by the sea and the tide is right you can make this elegant pasta dish with fresh clams you collected from the beach, otherwise you can always buy them at the fishmongers, supermarket etc. If you can’t find them fresh you can always buy them in a can as a last resort, although, personally i would always go for fresh.
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Where on the beach do you find them and how do you collect them?
Well here in Manzanillo the sea is full of the species Donax. They are fairly small and buried just under the surface of the sand between where the waves start to break and where they wash onto the shore. Sometimes they are right there at the very edge of the shoreline – just start by digging into the sand with your toes or fingers if they are there you will feel them, (they cannot hurt you – although be aware of other animals like rays) as you dig you will see that they start coming to the surface to one side of you trying to escape! Sometimes there are so many that you don’t even need to dig much, once you start they come up to the surface so all you need to do is have your goody bag handy and grab them before the next wave comes! One of those stringy plastic/nylon bags that fruit sometimes comes in are ideal for collecting clams or other sea catches as they don’t rot or break and the holes are small enough to keep your goodies in while letting out sand and water, they are also surpisingly stretchy and hold way more than you imagine.
Once you have collected (or bought) your fresh clams rinse them well to get rid of sand. Its best to keep them in water and in the fridge. I have collected clams one day and kept them in the fridge in tap water and they were fine the next day. The bad ones are the dead ones,they are the ones that will make you sick, so how do you know if they are dead? Here is how you can tell: Any that are open should close when you touch them, if they don’t it is because they are dead – throw them out. Once they are cooked they should all be open – any closed ones need to be thrown away as they were dead before they went in the pan. Also you you need to be aware of the condition of the water where you are collecting them from, obviously you don’t want to eat clams that are anywhere near a sewage outlet! Oh and one other obvious one, if they smell bad then just don’t eat them!
If in doubt – throw them out, food poisoning from shell fish can be serious apart from being a nasty experience – it would be even more upsetting if you inflicted it on family and friends! Saying that there is no need to feel afraid of collecting and eating your clams if you follow the above tips so good hunting and buen provecho!
Ingredients: (serves 4)
400g (2 packs) Spaghetti
1 small or 1/2 large onion very finely chopped
3-4 Cloves garlic very finely chopped (you can use more or less if you want)
Splash of white wine (you can use sherry instead)
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley finely chopped
1. Boil 3 liters of water in a large pan. once the water is boiling add the pasta – i always break mine in half just to make it easier when serving and eating. Use a fork to stir ocassionaly and separate any strands that are sticking together. Leave to cook according to the instructions on the packet.
2. While the pasta is cooking, rinse the clams thoroughly.
3. Heat 2-3 table spoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic, fry for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the clams and stir them in well to coat them all with the onion, garlic and oil, let them cook 1-2 minutes.
5.Drench them with a splash or two of white wine, cover and let them cook on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring ocassionaly.
6.Once the pasta is ready drain it and put it back in the pan, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to your taste.
7. After the 10 minutes are up for the clams they should all be open – remember throw away any closed ones.
8. Add the contents of the frying pan into the pan of pasta and mix thoroughly, alternatively you can serve the clams on a bed of pasta instead of mixing them in.
9. Sprinkle with the parmesan and chopped parsley and serve with garlic bread, salad and the rest of the white wine..enjoy!