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.