Last Friday was the first of the month and so it was time once again for the Irish Foodie Cookalong. This month's theme could only be traditional Irish food because of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities.
I spent a long time pondering what to cook, should I stick to soda bread and coddle or try and find something a bit different? Finally, I decided that I would look to Dublin's well known former resident, Molly Malone, for inspiration and cook cockles and mussels. What could be more traditional than that? A quick search on Google turned up this recipe, which I have modified a little bit.
Unfortunately, no cockles were to be found in time for me to use them, so I had to substitute in clams instead. They were just as tasty, if not as poetic as the original ingredient.
I served the hotpot, as suggested by the original recipe, with herb scones. I decided that since the recipe contained quite a large amount of sage, that's what I would put into the scones to best compliment the dish, plus the green colour was delightfully patriotic.
This recipe is also included in The Daily Spud's Paddy's Day Food Parade.
I'm not going to lie to you Marge, the hardest part of this recipe and the part that takes the longest is cleaning the damn shellfish. It took me just under an hour to de-beard and clean the mussels and clams together. However, once you get through this, the rest is plain sailing.
The first thing to check before you start scrubbing your shellfish is whether there are any that are open and if they don't close when you give them a sharp tap, throw them out.
Now on to cleaning them. On the mussels you need to remove the beards, which are the strands, much like hair that are trapped in the shell, then a give them a quick scrub to remove any other gunk from the shell. The clams don't have beards, but do need to be well scrubbed to remove any excess mud and sand from their shells.
When you've finally scrubbed the last of your cockles clams and mussels place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to stand for an hour. This is the perfect moment to make the sage scones.
This is also the moment to prepare your vegetables. Take the stick of celery, onion and carrot and finely chop.
Finely chop up your sage and leave to one side. As I was using sage in the scones as well I blitzed the whole lot in a mini food mixer and measured out the two tablespoons I needed for the hotpot from the total amount.
Time to go back to the soaking shellfish. Drain all the cold water from the clams and mussels and place them into a large pot. Add the two bay leaves.
Pour in the white wine, cover the pot with a lid and bring to the boil. Steam the shellfish for 5 - 7 mins until all the shells have opened.
Remove the shellfish from the pot using a slotted spoon and reserve the cooking liquid for use later.
Leave the shellfish to one side to cool. While this is happening heat a little oil in the frying pan over a low heat and add the vegetables. Keep on a low heat until the onion becomes translucent and the celery and carrot have softened.
Once the shellfish are cool, remove half from their shells but leave the remainder. Keep to one side until needed. Remember to discard and clams or mussels that have remained closed after cooking.
Returning to the frying pan, as the vegetables start to soften, add the chopped sage and cook for 3 mins. Add the tin of tomatoes, bring to the boil and cook for another 3 mins, stirring occasionally.
Add the reserved cooking liquid and again, bring to boil and simmer for 3 mins.
Add the clams and mussels to the sauce and stir through. Season the sauce and leave for 2 mins till the shellfish have warmed through.
Serve immediately in bowls with the sage scones.