What to do with the heart-warming cockles

Mussels
So now you have the bean clams and the heart shaped cockles, what do you do with them I hear you ask? Nemo problemo, I’ll get you a good dose of food poisoning…just kidding of course! They’re quick and easy to cook after prepping and you are going to love them.

Firstly to identification:
Cockle is the common name for a group of (mostly) small, edible, saltwater clams, marine bivalve mollusks in the family Cardiidae. Various species of cockles live in sandy, sheltered beaches throughout the world. The distinctive rounded shells of cockles are bilaterally symmetrical, and are heart-shaped when viewed from the end.
Donax is a genus of small, edible saltwater clams, marine bivalve mollusks. The genus is sometimes known as bean clams; however, Donax species have various common names in different parts of the world.
Freshly harvested mussels

Now that we have that out of the way, WHAT DO I DO WITH THEM? Okay, no need to shout, I can hear you!

PREPARATION

Mussels in water
Because cockles and clams live in sand, they can be very gritty if you don’t “soak” (clean) them first. You do this by putting them into salt water for between 4 and 24 hours depending on their size. I tend to err on the side of “I don’t want to eat grit” so I always leave them in salt water for 24 hours.

I use sea water change the water a couple of times. If you don’t have sea water then add about 1/3 cup of salt to a gallon of water instead. Some people add cornmeal to the water as well, something I have never done, so I can’t say whether this is good or bad.

They get quite active when they spit out the sand and they push each other around with their “tongues”!

COOKING METHODS
Cooked mussels in butter
Steam the clams and cockles for 3-10 minutes, depending on their size. They are cooked when they are open. Discard any that don’t open. Toss with butter or oil, add some freshly chopped parsley, a slice of lemon and eat with fresh bread.

I like to take them out of the shells and then add them to butter or oil, but some people prefer to take them out themselves.
Cooked mussels

Once out of the shells, I use them in a quick and easy version of Pasta Vongole (sorry to any Italian visitors as I believe that this is considered sacrilegious). Olive oil, garlic, chopped red chilies, the mussel meat tossed with cooked pasta. Heavenly. If you prefer the more traditional recipe, here’s a great one: www.theguardian.com

A different and quick way to cook them is to put them in a large frying pan with a glug of olive oil (and garlic if you like), lid on and shake them about at quite a high heat till they open. Done.

This blog has loads of interesting information about all types of mussels and lots of recipes, so do take a look.
http://tocookashellfish.com/clams/

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