Linguine with clams

This recipe first appeared in the Guardian on 20.09.10,  see article above - holiday memories.

This dish is based on what I was shown by Andy Needham at  Zafferano in London.  It takes time to prepare properly but is very quick to serve.  The sea bass stock can be made the day before.  The sea bass fillets are gorgeous seared for supper, especially if drizzled with some of the Ligurian olive oil, lemon juice and sliced olives.  

To make the stock, ask the fishmonger to fillet two small sea bass. Wash the bones to rid them of blood and place in a non-corrosive saucepan with the any trimmings from the fillets, one onion, halved, the outer two layers of fennel, one stick celery, one bay leaf and two black peppercorns.  Cover with about two litres water, bring up to the boil and skim thoroughly.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, then strain and chill. Reserve 300ml and freeze the rest.

Serves 2 as a main course

1.5kg clams

Ligurian extra virgin olive oil, such as Vittorio Cassini

Ĺ (half) head garlic + 2 fat cloves finely chopped

2 strips finely pared orange zest

1-2 red chillies (according to taste) seeded and finely sliced lengthwise

150ml dry white wine

ľ (quarter) supermarket bunch of thyme, washed

250g quick cooking linguine such as Voiello n.111 or Giuseppe Cocco, n.34

300ml sea bass fish stock (see above)

1 tablespoon chilli oil, optional

a handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

1 Clean the clams thoroughly as they hold a lot of sand.  Place them in the kitchen sink and cover with cold running water and a good handful of salt.  Swirl vigorously and leave for five minutes, then drain.  Repeat twice more then leave under cold running water for a further few minutes.  Discard any that donít close when tapped.  Drain the rest in a colander.

2 Cut your garlic head in half so that it forms two rounds. Cut one round in half again and wrap up the other half.  Set two of the widest pans you have over a high heat.  Once they are very hot, add a tablespoon or two of Ligurian olive oil in each and divide the clams between the two pans.  Stir fry briskly for a few seconds then divide the thyme, garlic, orange peel and half the chilli between each pan.  Continue to fry briskly, turning the mixture regularly for 30 seconds, then divide the wine between each pan and cover both.  As soon as the clams have opened tip the contents of each pan into a single roasting dish, spreading them out to cool quickly.  Donít overcook or they will become tough.

3 Quickly remove the flesh from most of the clams. Discard the shells and any clams that havenít opened.  You can set aside a few in their shells as a garnish, if wished.  Strain the juice from the roasting tray though a clean damp J-cloth or piece of muslin into a separate bowl.  If not eating soon, cover and chill both the clams and their juice.

4 When you are nearly ready to bring a large pan of water to the boil.  Finely chop two fat cloves of garlic and mix in two tablespoons olive oil.  Finely slice the remaining chilli (or less, if you want).  If you donít have any chilli oil, save some of the seeds for extra heat.

5  Drop the pasta into the boiling water Ė it will take about two and half to three minutes.  After a minute, set a wide sautť (or frying) pan over a medium low heat.  Add about six tablespoons of the olive oil followed by the garlic in oil and the chilli.  Once the garlic begins to sizzle, but before it colours, add the fish stock.  Bring up to the boil.

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