As soon as the sun appears I immediately feel like eating more, but cooking less. It doesn’t feel especially appealing to be in my rather dark kitchen when the great outdoors feels so light and bright. I need food that won’t interfere with my late spring schedule of sitting on the patio with a G&T.
It needs to be low maintenance, but not the stodge of those winter casseroles and soups that you can just leave to get on with it. It needs to feel fresh but be packed with flavour. It’s a tall order, but I felt my fishmonger* could point me in the right direction. And there nestled amongst the rather tempting bass and octopus and prawns, was the perfect solution. A bulging net of smooth shelled palourde clams beckoned to me.
Clams are most closely associated with spaghetti and this sweet shellfish works perfectly with the tang of tomatoes and the solid base note of pasta. I wasn’t going to stray too far from this classic combination, but I wanted something one pot so there was the minimum of preparation and very little washing up. The packet of orzo I’d picked up in the pound shop was about to have its moment…
I put half a cup of the rice shaped pasta into my saute pan and added three times the amount of water and simmered it until the orzo had swollen in size and there was barely any water left. At this point I added in a teaspoon of bonito flakes and a quarter of a cup of water as a quick fish stock then adding in a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes and the washed clams. A quick season and a splash of vermouth and the lid went on, allowing everything to steam and infuse for about five minutes or until the clams are open and the tomatoes have collapsed in on themselves making a simple sauce.
The clams add so much flavour to the somewhat neutral orzo and the hints of bonito and vermouth make everything taste much more like you made an effort. There should be just enough liquid at the bottom of the pan to make sure you need a hunk of crusty bread to get the maximum effect from this dish. Scatter a bit of parsley over it all and tuck in with a fork and spoon and a napkin to hand. This is a get stuck in hand on kind of meal and it’s fabulous. 15 minutes maximum from start to finish and you’ve got a bowl just packed with flavour. This is a one pot wonder just as at home as a meal to impress friends or as quick post work dinner when you can’t face chopping and stirring. Either way it only needs a large glass of chilled white wine to make it complete!
*I always go to Dagon’s in Granville Arcade/Brixton Village for fish. They are good quality, have a wide selection, are reasonably priced and super friendly. Treasure them.