Sunday, 22 March 2015

When the tide is Out the Forager's Table is Laid

Razor Clams
At 13.06 on March 21st, the day after the eclipse, my husband was grabbing spoots (razor clams) and picking seaweed on an Outer Hebridean beach. He returned home with a bagful. He's an Island doctor so I’m a wee bit suspicious that kind patients may have augmented his pickings. Meanwhile on the same day in St Andrews, Fife at 13.06, the tide was so high that I had to avoid waves and surf as I walked on a much reduced beach. Successful coastal foragers must not only be in touch with the movements of the moon but also their local tidetimes. Razor clams are the ultimate forager's delight. They are a tease to catch, and once caught, pop in and out of the shell in a rather rude and disturbing manner. There will be a lot of live action in the bucket or bag in which you collect your spoils. If you buy razor clams ensure that they haven't been electro-fished illegally by profit seeking fishermen. Razor clams have a soft, sweet flesh not dissimilar to scallops. In Scotland they are known as spoots because of the water they spurt out above the sand in which they are burrowing.
Some foragers sprinkle salt over the tell tale keyhole marks that razor clams leave in sand but seasoned foragers will leave noisy kids and dogs at home and quietly grab their razor clam. As with so many things, patience and practice help to perfect this skill.Forage razor clams carefully.The clue is in the shellfish's name. I make no excuse for the simplicity of this recipe; the time and excitement spent foraging is complicated enough.In my opinion, cooking should take place as soon as possible and as close to where the clams were foraged.Some people however prefer to leave the clams to soak overnight to remove grit and sand.

Pepper dulse  

Pepper dulse has small, fernlike fronds and a piquant peppery flavour. Some say that it tastes of garlic. If you'd prefer colourful seaweed butter replace the pepper dulse with sea lettuce or sea grass (gutweed). Seaweed is available from food halls or from commercial foragers. Add it to soft butter to taste as you would when making garlic butter.

Razor Clams in Seaweed Butter
Serves 4
20 razor clams, cleaned
125g pepper dulse or garlic butter
2tbsps roughly chopped parsley

Half fill a large, shallow pan with water and bring it to the boil. Add the razor clams and cover with a tightly, fitting lid (to steam the razor clams). Bring the pan back to the boil and simmer for a minute or until the razor clams open. Use a slotted spoon to remove the razor clams from the pan. Do not overcook the razor clams or they will become tough.
When the razor clams are cool enough to handle remove the clam flesh from the shells (I use my hands). Discard any shells that haven't opened. Cut the razor clams into pieces if you like, but I tend to serve them whole. 4-5 razor clams per person is a generous portion.

Meanwhile, melt the seaweed butter, add the parsley and pour it over the hot razor clams. Eat immediately with hot crusty bread to mop up the juices.