Clams, Cockles, Pipis
These bivalve molluscs have a white to light brown, almost oval shell (sometimes with darker zig-zag markings) with concentric ridges, containing white to yellow meat (sometimes with patches of purple). They are found around the southern Australian coast (including Tasmania) and harvested from tidal flats and estuary mouths on sheltered or sandy subtidal sediment to depths of about 5m, from Fraser Island in Queensland to Cape Leeuwin in WA. The larger K.scalarina, with pale yellow shells, is tidal, while the smaller K.rhytiphora, with greyish-purple shells, is intertidal. Both the SA and Tasmanian fishery are increasing and there have been aquaculture trials in Port Stephens (NSW) with K.rhytiphora.
Clam, Sand Cockle, Vongoli.
Veneridae (Venus Shells).
Available year round.
Size and Weight
Meat commonly weighs 8-12g and shells average 2-5cm; K.peronii average 3.5cm, between the larger K.scalarina and smaller K.rhytiphora.
Surf Clam (distinguished by circular shell), Sydney Cockle (distinguished by prominent outward-radiating ribs) and Pipi (distinguished by smooth shell).
Sold live. Look for brightly coloured, intact, lustrous shells, that are closed or close when tapped or gently squeezed, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.
Due to their sandy habitat they can contain a bit of grit, ask your fishmonger if they have been purged (stored in aerated saltwater for at least 24 hours to eliminate sand), if they haven’t been, see below for purging instructions.
Vongole should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. Place in a container, cover with a damp cloth and keep in the warmest part of the refrigerator, usually the crisper (optimum 5ºC), ensuring that covering remains damp.
Before cooking, discard any shells that are open and don’t close when tapped or gently squeezed (you may need to give them 10-20 minutes out of the fridge to warm up first). K.rhytiphora tends to keep better than K.scalarina. Freeze meat for up to 3 months below -18ºC.
If shells haven’t been purged, place them in a solution of cool water and sea salt (30g salt to each litre of water) for several hours, or overnight, at room temperature (if you refrigerate them they’ll close up and won’t ‘spit out’ the sand).
Average yield is 20-30%. They have a medium flavour, medium oiliness and moist, firm flesh. Remove from the heat as soon as they open, as they quickly shrivel and become chewy if over cooked.
While traditional wisdom was to discard shells that don’t open when cooked, you can pry them open, away from the plate, and, if they smell good, eat them; if they’re bad, they’ll have a distinctly ‘off’ aroma.
Steam, poach, stir-fry, bake, grill, barbecue, smoke, raw (sashimi), pickle. The firm flesh works well in soups, curries and stir-fries. The classic Vongole dish is Spaghetti Vongole.
Goes Well With
Chilli, coriander, garlic, parsley, tomato, white wine.
Blue Mussels, Pipis, Strawberry Cockles and Surf Clams.
Similar species are imported from Asia and New Zealand, including canned ‘baby clams' (probably Meretrix species).
Linguine ai Frutti di Mare
Spicy Seafood Noodles