Tuesday, 14 February 2012

R is for... Razor clams with remoulade, razor clam broth and radish and radicchio salad dressed with raspberry vinegar and rapeseed oil

Razor clams are possibly the rudest of all shellfish. These little blighters like to stick their tongues out at you in a slow and casually antagonistic fashion. Aside from enjoying giving you the bivalve equivalent of a fingers up, they're also wily too. Razor clams are rarely seen in supermarkets and you often have to ask for your fishmonger to get them in specially. This is not because they are an unpopular purchase for seafood lovers, far from it, it is rather because they are so damn difficult to catch. Special razor clam hunters in the Orkney Islands are known as spooters. Tom Norrington-Davies, chef/owner of Great Queen Street,  describes the practice thus:

"When full moon tides expose vast flats of wet sand, those with the know-how head for the beach with trowels or clam-diggers. The trick is to walk slowly backwards through the sand. When they detect footprints, the clams descend but leave behind a shaft of air. It is the sudden emergence of one of these holes that alerts the spooter, and a quick dig should be enough to catch the poor wee beastie."

Their sparsity only adds to their specialness. The flavour of razor clams is both sweet and salty,  similar to scallops but a little richer and with a texture more like squid. Like all clams, they're best eaten on the day of purchase and absolutely must be alive when you buy them. The fact that they like to wriggle out of their shells before retracting like a slurped up string of spaghetti makes identifying their freshness pretty easy, but if you're not sure, just give the shell a gentle tap and the clam should react. They take next to no time to cook, and can become quite rubbery if left in the pan for too long, so  it's best to start on your remoulade first.


Remoulade is a delicious French mayonnaise-based sauce and very similarly to its British cousin, tartar sauce, creates a marriage made in heaven when paired with fish or seafood. 

2 egg yolks
Approx 350ml rapeseed oil
A splash of vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
A squeeze of lemon juice
A good couple of handfuls of herbs - I used flat leaf parsley, tarragon and chervil, finely chopped
A handful of cornichons, finely chopped
A tablespoon of capers
Salt and pepper

Place the yolks in a bowl and give them a quick whisk. Slowly, drop by drop (I find this bit painstakingly dull, but I am quite impatient, especially when hungry) add the oil, whisking all the while. You may find it helpful to place your bowl on a damp tea towel to prevent it slipping. Once you've added about half the oil, you can start sloshing it in with a bit more abandon. Don't go overboard though, you don't want it to split now that you've come so far. Once you've got to a decent, mayonnaise-y consistency, add a little lemon and/or vinegar and seasoning to taste. Then, chuck in your herbs, cornichons and capers, stir it through and bosh. You're ready to go.

Radish and radicchio salad served with raspberry vinegar and rapeseed oil dressing.

The bitterness of the radicchio was balanced beautifully with the sweetness of the raspberry vinegar and the dressed salad was a glorious jewel-bright red, adding to the temptation of this dish. In terms of the recipe, you'd struggle to make this simpler. Wash, dry and slice the veg. Next, whisk together 2-3 tbsp of raspberry vinegar with 6 tbsp of rapeseed oil, season and dress the salad. 

Razor clam broth

A knob of butter
A handful of razor clams (1 to 2 per person)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
A large glass of dry white wine
A large glass of water
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a wide shallow pan and add the onion. Stir the onion until soft, but not brown and add the garlic. Stir again for a minute or so before chucking in the water and wine with the bay leaves. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for a few minutes while you prepare the razor clams, by simply rinsing then under cold water and discarding any dead ones. Add the clams to the pan and pop on the lid. After a couple of minutes, the clam shells will open. Carefully remove the clams from the pot with tongues and place them on a chopping board for later. Leave the razor clam broth to simmer while you prepare the razor clams with remoulade.

Preheat the grill.

Remove the clams from their shells, do not discard the shells though, you will need them to serve the dish in later. Cut the diggers off the clams - these are the dark bits at one end. Next, use kitchen scissors to slice up through the middle and check the insides for sand. Remove any dark bits - these will be the intestines. Give them a little rinse under the tap if they're sandy and chop the clams into small pieces. 

Mix the clams with a generous few dollops of your remoulade and fill your saved shells with the mixture. Pop them under the grill for a minute or so. 

Serve alongside an espresso cup of sieved razor clam broth and the raspberry-dressed salad. Classy.

Monday, 6 February 2012

R is for...

... Rusty Nails with Romesco and red pepper rice rolls, razor clams with remoulade, razor clam broth and radish and radicchio salad dressed with raspberry vinegar and rapeseed oil. Next up, we had Richard's rocket and Roquefort risotto, followed by rabbit ragù ravioli. The main course was rosemary-crusted reindeer with red currant reduction, röstis and red cabbage followed by a pre-pudding of rose petal jelly-topped rose mousse. Pudding was raspberry and Ricotta roulade, roasted rhubarb, rhubarb sorbet and raspberry coulis. Next, we had a cheeseboard of Rachel, Red Chester Thomas, Reblochon and Roquefort served with rye bread and raisin relish and finally, rooibos tea with rum truffles.

R night began with a rather exciting development in the Alphabet Soup kitchen. The hob, which only had three working rings from long before I even moved in, got fixed. I asked the oven cleaner if he thought there might be something he could do about it and, within 15 minutes, he had worked his magic and given me an extra burner. I could have kissed him (I didn't), and I might have done a silly little dance (I definitely did) and it may just have been the best £45 I've ever spent. To be fair, the hob fixing was technically free, as the money paid for a full professional oven cleaning service which I am not ashamed of using because, frankly, I'd rather go without a few non-essentials for a while than have to clean the bugger myself. Life's far too short and I'm far too lazy for scrubbing.

R night played host to a lovely mixture of guests. We welcomed the talented poet and playwright, Richard Marsh and his girlfriend Tammy, a freelance reality TV producer, along with lead singer of the excellent band, This Sporting Life, Matt Hopkinson and his ravishing teacher and theatre-maker wife, Claire Davies. Finally, R night greeted theatre maker and newlywed, Alex Ferguson, alongside applied drama practitioner at the Young Vic, Lily Einhorn. Lily is also a newlywed. She just married Alex! Romance! I made their cake.

Richard Hurst made a wonderful R-themed playlist, including Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, Rose Royce, R.E.M., Diana Ross and Rihanna.

Rusty Nail

If you're partial to Scotch and you're partial to Drambuie, then the chances are, you'll be partial to these little lovelies. Warming, sticky and strong, perfect for cold Winter nights. They certainly hit the spot  on R night and paved the way for a resplendent and raucous repast.

We forgot to take a photo of the rusty nails on the night, so here is an image from The Edinburgh Reporter
Equal parts Scotch and Drambuie stirred over ice. Bosh.

Romesco and red pepper rice rolls

Romesco sauce is a thick, full-flavoured Catalan sauce that works beautifully with fish or, if like Richard you can't eat fish, it's also lovely with chicken. R night's rather eccentric use of Romesco was actually quite delicious, if a little on the messy side when it came to actually eating them.

for the Romesco

2 roasted red peppers, skinned and deseeded
1 thick slice of stale white bread
1 tomato
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
A handful of blanched hazelnuts
A handful of blanched almonds
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
A couple of tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
1 lemon
A good few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

First, skin the tomato. Simply score the top with a cross, plunge the tomato into boiling water, leave for a minute or so, then plunge the tomato into cold water. The tomato skin should be easy to pull off now. Toast the nuts in a dry pan until lightly golden, turn the nuts out onto a cold plate and leave the nuts to cool. Whizz the bread in a food processor until you have fine bread crumbs and transfer to a bowl. Blitz the nuts until ground - but don't overdo it and pop the breadcrumbs back in the processor with the nuts. Add the tomato, garlic, roasted peppers, chilli, vinegar, some olive oil and the juice of half the lemon with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Whizz again until you have a nice thick sauce. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon and/or salt and pepper and oil if needed.

for the rice paper rolls

A packet of rice wrappers/ spring roll wrappers/ rice paper (available at Asian/Chinese food stores).
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into long thin batons.
Romesco sauce

Soak the rice paper in warm water until completely soft - it usually takes about 30 seconds. When soft, lift the rice paper out of the water and spread out on clean surface. Place a little pile of red pepper batons in the centre of the rice paper and blob on a nice amount of Romesco sauce on top. Fold the edges of the rice paper near the tip ends of the red pepper batons over. Take the piece of rice paper in front of you and fold it tightly away from you over the filling and then roll it up into a tight little sausage. Repeat until you've run out of rice paper or you get bored.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Q is for... Qumbe

Qumbe is a traditional Somalian coconut pudding I discovered while researching my menu and trying to find something (anything!) that began with the letter Q that Richard might not have heard of. I found lots of recipes that were largely the same - a toffee goo made up of coconut, milk, sugar and cardamom, then pressed down in a tin to set before slicing into squares. I wondered if it might taste similar to that 1980s staple of my childhood: coconut ice, which I never really liked to eat but was a popular treat with others in the Glass household, so I made it continuously until I got bored and moved on to something else. I'm pleased to report that qumbe is much more delicious than coconut ice and is strangely moreish, even if you have already eaten your weight in quesadillas, quail, quinoa and quaking pudding. 


This recipe is an amalgamation of lots of different recipes I found on the internet.

180 ml/ 6 fl.oz whole milk
100g/ 4oz caster sugar
100g/ 4oz desiccated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling
6-8 cardamom pods, pods smashed open and the little seeds ground in a pestle and mortar

Line a small square tin with baking parchment and sprinkle the paper with desiccated coconut.

Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Chuck in the cardamom and coconut and stir over a low heat until the coconut has absorbed all the liquid and continue to stir for around five minutes. Pour the coconut mixture out into the tin, press it down firmly and smooth over the top. Sprinkle over more desiccated coconut and leave the mixture to cool before popping it in the fridge for about half an hour to set. Turn out the qumbe and slice into squares and serve.