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A Perfect Pairing: A pot of cockles and clams

A pleasing alternative to a pan of mussels, this simple shellfish dish calls out for a dry white – with pairings suggested from France, England and beyond.

My book Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many is essentially a treatise on the simple, charming business of cooking at home. Curiously, the title for the book came about as Elena Heatherwick took photographs of produce and ingredients, heaps of books, pots and pans, plates, dishes and bowls piled up high on any and every surface while food was prepared in my scullery of a kitchen. Elena was just as interested in the adventure of ingredients being shopped for and prepared as she was in how they then became the dishes that grace the pages of the book.

These simple actions became the spine of the book, with the idea that the mix of old and more modern recipes – and ingredients both familiar and less so – would fire a curiosity, altogether making for a pleasant time in the kitchen, and resulting in dishes that would delight folk of all ages.


A pot of cockles and clams

This light, bright dish with a soothing broth delights in the addition of cream, although this is entirely at the cook’s discretion. Depending on the time of year, add chopped wild garlic, cooked peas, broad beans, asparagus or spring onions to the pot. This is equally as good as a pan of mussels.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 450g cockles
  • 400g clams
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 4 sticks celery
  • 1 small bulb or 1⁄2 large bulb fennel
  • 3 soup spoons [equivalent to 3 tbsp] extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • small bundle thyme and summer savory
  • 2 leeks, green parts still attached
  • 125ml white wine
  • 200ml double cream
  • 120g flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Method

1. Rinse the cockles and clams well in several changes of cold water (it is a shame after such efforts to have a mote of grit spoil the brew).
2. Chop the onion, celery and fennel into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a moderate heat and add the onion, celery, fennel, bay leaves, thyme and savory. Cover the pot and cook until softened, about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.
3. Slice the leeks into pieces roughly 1cm wide, wash thoroughly and add them to the pot, then cook for a further 5 minutes.
4. Add the wine, cockles and clams, cover and boil vigorously over a high heat until all the shellfish open (discard any that don’t open).
5. Pour in the cream, add the chopped parsley, shake the pan gently, return to the boil and serve.


Born in 1960s Dundee, Scotland, Jeremy Lee joined Quo Vadis in London’s Soho in early 2012, as chef proprietor, after working with such distinguished restaurateurs as Simon Hopkinson and Alastair Little. In the same year Quo Vadis won the Catey for Menu of the Year and in 2013 was named Best Kitchen at the Tatler Restaurant Awards. Lee writes for numerous newspapers and periodicals and has appeared on television in the BBC’s Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen, as well as Could You Eat an Elephant? for Channel 4.

Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many by Jeremy Lee was published in September 2022, and recently won the Food category at the 2022 André Simon awards. It is available through Amazon UK.


The wines to drink with a pot of cockles and clams

As Jeremy says, this dish is equally as good as a pan of mussels and therefore from a wine point of view could be treated like a moules marinières. Muscadet would be the obvious option but given the cream, leeks and herbs, Chablis would be perfect, too; it’s such a simple dish it would be a good showcase for a premier cru. Outside France you could consider other dry white wines, not least as the recipe includes white wine: a good Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige, an Albariño/Alvarinho from Spain or Portugal respectively, or maybe an Alella from coastal Catalonia, or Alpine white. From the New World I’d probably look at a young cool-climate Chardonnay – not too much lees or oak character, and saline rather than sumptuous, but cream can carry practically anything, as Jeremy, I’m sure, would agree. I’d be looking for a matching creaminess but not too much butteriness in the wine. One of the very good English Chardonnays we have now would hit the spot, too.

By Fiona Beckett

Wines selected by our Decanter experts


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