British cockles can be as rewarding as clams, and they cost a fraction of the price. I'm talking fresh cockles in the shell here – not the gritty ones you buy at seafood stands alongside the crab sticks. Most good fishmongers will stock live cockles or be able to get hold of them for you. The cockles need to be well rinsed under running cold water for a while and agitated using your hands every so often to remove any grit from their grooved shells.
Three-cornered garlic, or hedgerow garlic, has just started appearing and if you're a forager you will probably have harvested some already. It resembles garlic chives and you will probably have had a whiff of it if you've been on a country walk recently. If you haven't got access to any, then crush about 4 cloves of garlic and cook them with the shallots and toss about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley in with the spaghetti at the end.
100ml white wine
1kg cockles, washed as above
4tbsp olive oil
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A good pinch of dried chilli flakes
A handful of three-cornered garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet then drain in a colander, saving a little of the cooking liquid. Heat the white wine in a large saucepan, add the cockles and cook over a medium heat with the lid on, shaking the pan every so often, for 3-5 minutes until the cockles have all opened. Drain in a colander over a bowl to catch the juices and leave to cool a little. Remove half of the cockles from the shell and put to one side.
Meanwhile, gently cook the shallots in the olive oil for a couple of minutes with the chilli flakes, add the butter and the cockle cooking liquor, then toss with the spaghetti on a very low heat, add the cockles and three-cornered garlic and season. The sauce should be just coating the spaghetti – if it doesn't, add a little of the cooking liquor and more oil and butter. Serve immediately.Reuse content