Clam is a rather generic term for a creature from the mollusc family with two hinged shells generally hiding an edible morsel. My clear favourite, despite many heated debates in the kitchen at Berta, are vongole. Having said that, pippies or mussels would also work well in this recipe. The combination of the salty brine, the fatty pork and the pop of peas is particularly good, with the celery adding an extra fresh flavour. This recipe will serve 4 as a starter.
- 150 g podded peas
- olive oil
- 80 g pancetta, cut into thin pieces
- 3 large French shallots, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp thyme
- white pepper
- 1 kg clams
- 100 ml cider
- ½ celery heart, sliced on the diagonal, leaves reserved
- 70 g mascarpone
- river salt, to season
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- toasted bread, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the peas until they are just cooked, cool in a bowl of iced water, drain and set aside.
In a large shallow pot add a splash of oil and the pancetta and place on a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the pancetta starts to sizzle.
Add the shallot, garlic and thyme and keep cooking for another couple of minutes or until the mix start to soften. Season with a hearty amount of white pepper.
Raise the heat to high and, all together, throw in the clams, cider, peas and sliced celery. Give it a good stir, cover with a lid and let it simmer away for a few minutes.
Have a peek inside and if it looks like the clams are starting to open then you can move forward. If they are all still mostly closed, give another quick stir, put the lid back on and leave them be for another minute or so.
Once the time is right and the clams are all starting to pop open, add the mascarpone, stir it through and have a little taste. At this stage you may need to add a little salt.
Once the clams have all popped, take the pot off the heat and stir through the parsley and reserved celery leaves.
Serve on a large platter with an extra drizzle of olive oil, a bowl for your shells and some toasted bread to mop up the juices.
Photography by Benito Martin
Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd
Plate from Koskela; Slab and Slub serving dish from Small Spaces; measuring flask from The Bay Tree, leather runner from Saint-Crispin.