Inspired by childhood memories of hunting pipis in the sand, Elena Duggan creates a simple shellfish dish with more than a hint of Italian about it.
Elena Duggan reinvents a classic.
I LOVED COLLECTING buckets of pipis as a kid. Watching for the little bubbles to surface, then getting my hands down in the sand, deep enough and fast enough to grab one. We used them as bait for bigger catch, overlooking their sweet simplicity.
Similarly as a kid, I thought of clams as vibrantly painted decorations dotting my beach walks, or as giant alien-looking monsters spotted while diving on the Barrier Reef. They were definitely not something I would have considered cooking up for dinner back then.
But times and tastes change, and now shellfish is something to be savoured, as in the recipe here. It’s simple in its elegance; a celebration of the ingredients without overcomplicating the process. For gluten lovers, use your favourite spaghetti or even make your own. I’ve used gluten-free here, but there are amazing seaweed spaghettis that work beautifully by complementing the salty, sweet ocean flavours of the pipis.
And forget the haters who insist you can’t have cheese with seafood. Think of lobster mornay, tuna bake or salmon and cream cheese. Boost the umami here with parmesan. Be as generous as you desire; in this dish, it’s just another layer of deliciousness.
SPAGHETTI WITH PIPIS SERVES 4
1 garlic bulb, halved crossways 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle 500g cherry tomatoes on the vine 6 anchovy fillets in oil, drained 375g gluten-free spaghetti 1 onion, finely chopped 1 cup (250ml) prosecco (substitute
dry sparkling wine) 1kg pipis or clams (vongole), rinsed Shaved parmesan and flat-leaf parsley
leaves, to serve
Preheat the oven grill to medium.
Brush garlic with 1 tbs oil and place cut-side up on a baking tray. Place under grill for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Add tomatoes to tray and return tray to grill, checking often, for a further 3 minutes or until tomatoes are blistered. Set aside. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze flesh onto a chopping board with anchovies. Finely chop both together and, using the back of the knife, mash to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions and drain, reserving 1/ 2 cup (125ml) cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbs oil in a large heavy-based saucepan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until onion has softened but not coloured. Add anchovy mixture and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until starting to catch on the base of the pan. Increase heat to high, add prosecco and bring to the boil. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, for 3 minutes or until reduced by half. Add pipis and cover. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until pipis start to open. Add tomatoes, spaghetti and reserved cooking liquid, and toss for 2 minutes or until well combined. Discard any pipis that remain closed.
Transfer spaghetti mixture to a serving platter and drizzle with extra oil. Scatter with parmesan and parsley leaves, and serve immediately.