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Digging for Cockles


When it comes to finding food in the wild, I can actually surprise myself when the findings are great. Sometimes, it seems as though I have the metal detecting version of food finding and my eyes are able to highlight (as if in fluorescent green) fruit growing on an abandoned tree by the side of the road as if yelling to me to pick them and to create something amazing. A couple of weeks ago on a long weekend getaway to the Yorke Peninsula (about 2.5 hr drive from here), we were invited to stay at a beach shack with some friends. This tiny community is practically in the middle of nowhere and the beach was not that enticing because it was thick with sea grass debris everywhere. Just as we were packing our cars to leave, I decided to take a walk to the ocean. When I got there, I noticed that there were quite a few WHOLE, LIVE cockles (clams in N. America) all over the place. Usually there are tons of shells that are empty but these cockles were definitely live and nice and heavy for their size. So I dug under the sand, near the grassy bits (where they usually hide) and came with fistfuls of these wonderful cockles which are often called vongole (Italian) in the fish markets here. I was in absolute
heaven with my discovery and was soon filling a quarter of my bucket with them. I couldn’t wait to get them home to make spaghetti con vongole for dinner.

As soon as we got home, I rinsed them very very well, repeated with water and scrubbed a few of them that looked like they had a healthy colony of algae growing on them. Meanwhile, I started to boil the water for the pasta and I sauteed the vongole with some olive oil and butter (I like both) and garlic, white wine, chillies, basil, flat leaf parsley and garnished with fresh Parmesan. The cockles were absolutely tender and about the least sandy cockles I’d ever eaten in my life.

The next day, I decided to prepare them completely differently. I made homemade miso soup with tofu and threw in the cockles and ate a huge bowl of it with hot rice. The slightly briny flavour of the cockles mixed with the salty, umami of miso is heaven and not to mention, plenty of minerals and very good for you. 😉

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