Dreaming of clams has caused some debate amongst dream experts. Some interpret it as a sign of secrecy, others as a sign of tenacity and balance during a transitional period. After the past year, I suspect a lot of us are still transitioning. I held on to sanity by achieving new mastery in the kitchen.
The obsession has been most useful, it gave me an outlet, an opportunity to focus on something other than home-schooling and, dare I say it, a chance to shut myself in the kitchen and get away from the family. I have never regretted our big move out of the city, London in my family’s case – I love the silence, the big open spaces, foraging for wild garlic in spring and mushrooms in autumn. I am a novice vegetable ’patcher’, enjoying the fruits of my labours including beans, courgettes, berries.
I have embraced jam-making, soon I will attempt chutneys. So, while all of this suits me down to the ground, literally, the one thing I have missed is the metropolitan array of gastronomy. Whilst I love our quaint country pubs, warm pints and pork scratchings, my palate craves flavour, the assault on the senses: the fiery taste of Szechuan cooking in London’s Chinatown; the explosion of aromas from the city’s Indian restaurants; handmade pasta, if I’m lucky, with a shaving of truffle over the top. My day job meant I was in London regularly, able to satisfy this craving – but then 2020 hit.
Faced with the prospect of no more trips and London flavour hits, I quickly and simply took matters into my own hands. Thus began my quest to cook authentic dishes from around the world. I have travelled to India and Mexico, to Neapolitan pizzerias, all without ever leaving the kitchen. I now make a mean (and healthier) crispy roast duck with pancakes and, after many years of languishing in the cupboard, my pasta machine is my new toy.
My favourite ingredient at the moment, and the subject of my dreams, is clams. I have always loved clams. With a much more delicate flavour than mussels, and much more visually pleasing, clams are pure joy.
Sweet and juicy, they can be enjoyed on their own, simply griddled with a dash of dry sherry or white wine and lashings of good-quality olive oil that you simply need to soak up with fresh, crusty bread.
Perhaps my favourite recipe, however, is one I like to think I have perfected over the last year. Spaghetti Vongole, heavenly! My key advice: do not be scared to add butter, it will add a richness and coat the spaghetti, helping to soak up the flavours.
Personally, I don’t put tomatoes in my vongole, but I know many chefs do, and I love a dash of lemon in mine, too. Apart from that, good-quality olive oil, fresh clams, parsley and chilli are really all you need. Oh, and a dash of white wine – make it something you enjoy drinking, and you can have a glass while you eat, too.
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