Razor clams. Musings and some recipes.


I was thinking the other day that I don’t eat enough razor clams. They’re plentiful, cheap and delicious. So to address that I bought a kilo of them and scoffed them all on my own! Almost 30 of the buggers for £8, I was in razor clam heaven for an evening. They don’t take much to prepare either, the six dishes that I tried out only took a couple of hours from start to finish. Seafood is fast food.

The first two dishes require no cooking at all. There is an adage that you should do as little as possible to fresh seafood. All seafood loving cooks know this. So what’s simpler than just eating raw clams? But first you have to clean them, razor clams notoriously can be full of sand. Shuck one open and see how much grit you have in there. It will wriggle a little, you’ll see the main fleshy muscle ‘foot’ where most of the sweet meat is surrounded by the stringy abductor muscles that keep the clam shut. At the top is the siphon, at the centre there’s the digestive tract where half-digested food and most of the sand will be hiding. Check this part carefully with your fingers. If it feels soft then you’ve got a clean batch. If not then soak your clams in cold water for an hour, this will help degrit them. Luckily I bought a clean batch this time so I was ready to go!


Shuck open half a dozen clams, take out the prime fleshy muscle ‘foot’ only, butterfly them open, scrape along them to make them curl up like ferns. Dress them with sea salt, lemon, caper, shallot, parsley and olive oil. Eat.


Moving away from the Mediterranean, I hear that the Japanese like to eat raw seafood too. Again using only the fleshy foot, slice it on the bias and return the pieces to the shell on top of finely shredded daikon. Dress with salmon roe, ponzu and very fine Thai basil (I couldn’t get hold of shiso).

Cantonese Steamed Clams


There are two classic variations we have in the Cantonese repertoire; Black Bean Sauce and Ginger Spring Onion. Prepare the clams first by opening them and loosening them from the shell. When cooked most of the clam is good eating, even the half-digested stuff in the sac.
Traditionally the black bean version is stir-fried because the razor clams you get in Asia are quite small. But with bigger clams I like to make an extra rich black bean sauce separately and dress the raw opened clams with this sauce, mild red chillies and steamed for two minutes. The sauce is made by frying garlic, ginger, spring onion and crushed fermented black beans together till aromatic. Add a splash of shaosing then stock, chicken preferably but instant dashi is a good for convenience, simmer for 5 minutes. Season with sugar and soy then thicken with starch. Strain the sauce before using it.
Even simpler is the ginger and spring onion variation. Dress the raw clams with this finely shredded stuff, add salt then steam for two minutes. Add a splash of soy to the clams before sizzling with smoking hot groundnut oil. Finish with some fresh curls of spring onion.

Grilled Clams with Fried Shallot and Sherry Vinegar

Nick was raving about this dish he had at the Quality Chop House in London. Sounded simple enough but I couldn’t quite get my head round the taste combination. So like foodie monkey sees he does… Deep fry the shallot first and season them with a little salt. In a searing hot pan or hotplate place your clams so they open downwards, add a little olive oil, a splash of lemon and clamp a lid on for one minute. Remove the clams right away, slice them and return to the shell, dress with the shallots and a drizzle of the best sherry vinegar you can afford. Any doubts I had about this dish were dismissed with the first bite, it’s a taste sensation. Try it now, I dare say this combination of crispy fried shallot and sherry vinegar would work with a lot of things.

Sautéed Clams with N’duja

I’ve been curing my own n’duja, as you do, that spreadable spicy Calabrian salami. Except I couldn’t find any Calabrian pepper powder so I used the reddest chilli powder I could think of, Korean Gojugaru. The addition of the fish sauce has seen it renamed Kim Doo Ya! But the essence of deep spicy funky pork fat is still there.
Shell your clams first and slice them into chunks. Start frying off the n’duja in a pan, it should melt into a crimson slurry of pork fat, cook it out a little then add garlic and then the clam meat. Cook for one minute, at the end season with lemon juice and smack it with parsley*. That’s it, serve them back in the shell or just as it is with some bread to mop up all those juices.
I think frying some breadcrumbs till crispy in the n’duja first would be a good variation, will try it next time but as it stands clams with n’duja is pretty good eating. Pork and clams eh?

Hopefully you can see that preparing and cooking Razor Clams is actually really simple. Try out these dishes and let me know which is your favourite. I know which are mine.

* yeah I said it.

An Ode to the Reuben Sandwich

What’s your favourite sandwich? It’s the eternal question with an infinite number of answers. If you can eat it then you can put it atop or between pieces of bread. A sandwich can be anything your heart desires; a Bánh mì bursting with savoury pork and fresh coriander in a crisp light airy Vietnamese baguette, a beef burger crusty on the outside but pink in the middle with it’s juices soaking into a toasted light brioche bun, or for me the mighty Reuben Sandwich. That combination of corned or pastrami beef, melted cheese, sauerkraut, russian or thousand island dressing and rye bread. It’s a combination that’s hard to find in the UK, where are you going to get good corned beef or pastrami from huh? No, the first Reuben sandwich I ever ate was in the near legendary Katz’s Deli on East Houston St in New York City. Giant slabs of the softest juiciest pastrami topped with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese. The bread is a side note just there to fool you that it is a sandwich, honest! These are the mythological sky-high NY deli-style sandwiches that your friends have told you about in their holiday stories. Their expressions become manic as they describe to you the heft and wonder of these beasts.

A pastrami Reuben from katz’s

At Katz’s the server slices the freshly steamed pastrami thickly in front of you before laying on a piece of rye with sauerkraut, russian dressing and swiss cheese. He microwaves it to make sure the cheese is nice and melty before topping it off with another slice of rye smeared with mustard. There’s no doubt here that the pastrami is the star of the show. The bread is there to keep your fingers clean initially but at the end of the sandwich you’re just shovelling slabs of savoury cured beef into your gob with careless abandon. That’s why napkins were invented.

So coming back to Blighty after that first trip to New York I just had to try and smoke my own pastrami. It’s quite a straightforward process really, buy brisket, brine it, smoke it, steam it. But achieving the level of pastrami excellence that you find at Katz’s is not simple at all. The biggest barrier is the meat, you just can’t get the heavily marbled stuff here unless you really look for it. An epic grail quest that Nick has been on and returned triumphant! Myself? After a number of less than satisfying attempts at smoking brisket I gave up trying to recreate that Katz’s sandwich though the yearning for it never left me.

When Mishkin’s in Covent Garden opened to rave reviews I couldn’t help noticing that they had Reuben on their menu too. It’s very different to the Katz’s version as you can see.

A Mishkins’s Reuben Sandwich

This one is much slimmer, the pastrami has been sliced thinly and the whole lot looks to have been put in a panini press. But the revelation is that I actually enjoyed this more than Katz’s version. Mishkin’s Reuben is a grilled cheese sandwich, all the component parts are in balance and fused together. Although the thinly sliced pastrami looked less impressive it still tasted wonderful, every bite had a little bread, sauerkraut, cheese, dressing and a hint of caraway seed. It was just a completely different eating experience to the mile-high sandwich at Katz’s. I knew that I had to try and recreate this. Luckily a Reuben topic cropped up on egullet at around the same. Apparently to real Reuben aficionados the mile-high offerings are abominations, Reuben purists insist that it should be a thin grilled cheese sandwich made with corned beef not pastrami. Well, I wouldn’t call myself a purist but I’m certainly a grilled Reuben convert and so with a freezer full of beef cheeks I decided to make pastrami with them so I could feed my craving. Why have corned beef when you can make pastrami with it?

Here’s my brine recipe, heat all the ingredients together so that the salt is dissolved. When the brine has cooled put 4kg of trimmed beef cheeks in it and fridge it for 3 days:

7 litres Water
780g Salt
175g Sugar
44g Pink Salt (#1 cure)
4 Cloves Garlic minced, 6 pieces Mace , 15g Coriander Seeds, 20g Whole Black Peppercorns, 6 Fresh Bay Leaves, 1 tsp Ground Ginger, 1 Cinnamon Stick, 6 Cloves, 1 Star Anise

After 3 days rinse and dry the cheeks. Grind equal quantities of black peppercorns and coriander seeds enough to cover the cheeks evenly. Let the cheeks rest uncovered on a rack overnight for a pellicle to form, this will help the smoke to adhere to the meat. Set up your smoker and hot smoke the cheeks at around 100C for 3 hours. I like quite a heavy smoking as I think beef can take it. Also, a heavy smoke is preferable because after 3 hours the cheeks are wrapped in several layers of foil and steamed in a 130C oven till they are tender, test it after 3 hours – a knife should slip straight in.

Beef Cheek Pastrami

The cheeks are a lot easier to slice thinly when it’s cool and you want to slice them as thinly as possible for the perfect Reuben sandwich. But not only that you have to squeeze dry your sauerkraut first before gently frying in a dry pan with some caraway seeds. This will cook out the sauerkraut, if you use it uncooked then it can be wet and stringy. You are now ready to make your Reuben sandwich.

Generously butter the outside of your bread before assembling, preferably rye but sourdough is a great alternative. Lay the pastrami on first then the sauerkraut, Russian dressing next and finally the Swiss cheese. Remember balance is the key, no one component should overpower the other, though I will forgive you if you lay the pastrami on just a little thicker. You are only human after all. Griddle (grill) the whole lot in a frying pan pressing it down till it’s all crispy and the cheese and pastrami is hot and melted together.

My Reuben Sandwich

Beef cheeks make a lot of sense for the home cook, they’re easy to handle and portion. Half a cheek is usually enough for one sandwich. But above all else beef cheeks give an extra sticky juicy quality to the sandwich giving it another dimension of awesomeness. I’m proud to say that it’s the best Reuben I’ve ever eaten and it’s my perfect sandwich.

Moro-style Beetroot Borani

One of my favourite restaurants is Moro. We used to go regularly after it opened, back when it wasn’t quite so popular. After the first Moro cookbook came out, it quickly attained legendary status. You could never get a table, although sometimes you could sit at the bar. Luckily the cookbook was so good that you could replicate most of their dishes at home and look dead clever at the same time. We left London in 2004 and haven’t been back to the restaurant, not sure what it’s like any more. But I keep a wistful eye on the London restaurant scene via the blogs and was excited to see they have opened a tapas place called Morito just down the street. The reviews have been mixed – hispanophiles Dos Hermanos didn’t rate it – but online reports almost universally rave about a tapa they serve called beetroot borani.

I absolutely love beetroot, I just think it’s got such a sophisticated flavour – tasting of freshly dug earth (in a good way) as well as sweet and acidic. I love it paired with dill or caraway seeds – and it loves lactic flavours like yoghurt and sour cream. It’s obviously very good with oily smoked fish, particularly salmon and eel.

So I was keen to try out the beetroot borani which is essentially a yoghurt and beetroot puree. There is a recipe in Moro East (probably the least satisfying of the three Moro cookbooks, but still well worth owning). The dish they serve at Morito has been augmented by the addition of some salty feta crumbled over the top and walnuts. The recipe calls for the beetroot to be boiled, but I find that roasting the beetroot gives a better result, although it takes longer.

This was the surprise hit of Hannah’s little party yesterday (can’t bring myself to write the yukky words baby shower).

Beetroot borani

Beetroot borani, canape style

500g beetroot
400g yoghurt (preferably a creamy, full-fat yoghurt like Total)
3tbps olive oil
1 tsp Sugar
1 clove of garlic, crushed to a paste
small bunch of dill
1/2 pack feta cheese

Take whole beetroot, top and tail and and scrub clean. Place the beetroot on a sheet of foil. Sprinkle over some salt and olive oil and wrap into a tight parcel. Place the foil package into an oven-proof dish and into a 180 degree C oven and cook until tender, this could take between 1-3 hours depending on the size of the beetroot.

Remove and allow to cool. Peel the beetroot. Very roughly chop the beetroot and blend in the food processor. Add yoghurt, olive oil, garlic, half the dill and sugar and process until desired consistency (you may like it smooth or chunkier). Season to taste with salt and pepper and more sugar if you want it.

Spoon the mixture into a bowl. Chop the rest of the dill and sprinkle over. Crumble over the feta cheese and some walnuts if you like.

This is nice served as a meze or tapas, or alternatively as little canapes over crisp flatbreads. It would probably also be a good accompaniment to roast lamb or chicken dishes.

Beef Cheek Rendang

What’s your favourite curry?  Maybe it’s a rich and spicy Rogan Josh or a hot and sour Vindaloo?  Thinking further east, there are wonderfully aromatic Thai curries, fragrant with lemongrass and lime tempered by luscious coconut.  Japanese curries are sweet and fruity, and of course us Brits claim a whole subcontinent of curry as our own. Curries are exciting, full of spice and flavour, you must have a palate of cardboard not to love a good curry! Now if you were to ask me what my favourite curry is I would have no hesitation in saying Rendang. The incredible concoction of flavours from Indonesia/Malaysia, it’s an explosive mix of the earthy, warm tones of the Indian sub-continent and the high fragrant notes of SE Asia. Both tempered and enriched by lashings of coconut. It’s most commonly made with tough cuts beef (Rendang Daging) but it’s also great with shoulder of lamb. I’ve never heard of a pork rendang and I see no reason why it wouldn’t taste great but it’s like having a pork biryani, just sounds wrong doesn’t it? Over the years I’ve tried cooking it with many different cuts of beef; blade, shin, oxtail and brisket. But there’s one cut above all others that makes my perfect Rendang; cheek. Imagine big chunks of wobbly beef that appear solid but when you put it into your mouth melts into a flood of beefy rendang goodness. Well imagine no more, because here is my recipe.

Rendang recipes change from cook to cook. Please feel free to alter any component of this dish, add cumin and coriander if you want a more Indian vibe, add belachan (shrimp paste) or fish sauce for a deep salty tang. The only thing you musn’t change is the method. Rendang must be dry. It must not be swimming in sauce, if it is then you’ve not cooked it properly and the flavours would not have been fully developed. This recipe makes a lot of Rendang, halve it should you wish.

Ingredients for the Spice Paste
Dried Long Red Chillies (Kashmiri Style) – 20
Shallots – 300g
Ginger – 50g
Galangal – 50g
Turmeric Root – 20g
Garlic – 50g
Nutmeg – 2, yes two whole nutmeg
Cloves – 10
Cinnamon – 1 tbl
Candle Nuts (macadamia nuts if unavailable) – 12
and the rest
Beef Cheeks – 2.5kg cut into large golfball sized chunks
Lemongrass – 3 stalks lightly bashed and tied into knots
Kaffir Lime Leaves – 10
Curry Leaves from 2 stalks
Coconut cream – 2 cans (600ml)
Dessicated coconut – 80g (optional)

Make the paste

  • Tear off the stalks of the dried chillies and shake out the seeds before softening them in warm water. When they’re soft blitz them in a food processor with the shallots, ginger, galangal, turmeric and garlic. If you need to loosen this mixture to help the blending then use a little of the soaking water.  Make sure that everything is well blended.
  • Grind the nutmeg, cloves and candlenuts as fine as possible in a big mortar with a heavy pestle. Add the blended mixture and the cinnamon to the freshly ground spices and use your pestle to amalgamate everything together into a bright red-orange paste.
  • You could of course make the whole paste the old-fashioned way from scratch in the mortar and pestle, if you like to punish yourself.

Make the Curry

  • In the widest non-stick pan you have (a deep sauté pan is best) fry the curry leaves in a little vegetable oil till their aroma is released.  Then add the beef, coconut cream, spice paste, lemongrass, lime leaves and a good smattering of salt. Stir well and let it come to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to as low as possible and cook it uncovered for about 3 hours.
  • After a few hours the meat should be nice and tender and most of the liquid will have evaporated. This is when the rendang magic starts. If you taste it now it will be under-powered even insipid. You see, to cook a rendang properly you need to do the opposite of braising and brown the meat at the end.
  • Crank the heat up to medium so that the meat and aromatics start to fry gently in the fat and the oil released by the meat and coconut cream. Remove the lime leaves at this point as they will become bitter when fried. Turn the meat carefully when it browns on the bottom, this is why you needed to cut big chunks of beef as small pieces will turn to mush.
  • For an extra coconut hit, toast the dessicated coconut till light brown, blend it to a fine powder before adding it to the rendang near the end of the cooking.
  • When the meat has been well browned and is dark all over your rendang is done. You can eat it now with a fresh chiffonade of lime leaves sprinkled over it but cruelly it tastes much better the next day. So make it the day before you want to eat it and make too much because it freezes really well too.

Pressure Cooker variation: To cut the cooking time use your PC to cook the meat in the coconut cream and spice paste till just tender, drain off the meat and fast reduce the gravy in a wide non-stick pan. Put the meat back into the reduced gravy to brown all over and finish making the rendang in the regular way. Tip: Less coconut cream is needed, just enough to coat the meat and spices. Use only three lime leaves, the regular amount will produce too bitter taste when pressure cooked.


San Francisco Cookoff: Carnitas

“Why don’t you write about those Carnitas on my blog, I made an account for you” said mr smokeandumami enthusiastically.  But I wasn’t sure, this blog is like a diary isn’t it?  If not a diary then it’s Nick’s personal expression of his love of good food.  So at best I’m going to feel I’m doodling over another man’s thoughts.  At worse it could be even more personal, it could feel like playing with another man’s todger!  I know in these enlightened times that that’s kinda ok, but you know I’ve just never been that way inclined.  After a few days though I’ve warmed to the idea, maybe it’s more like he’s thrown me the keys to his Ferrari and I’d be foolish to turn down the opportunity to give it a blast around the block.  So here goes, wheelspinning away on the first proper collaborative contribution to smokeandumami.

Last Saturday there was Popstrami reunion round at Nick and Hannah’s where we had a nice casual dinner with a San Francisco cookoff theme.  This had been brewing for a few months and originally the main course was supposed to be Mission-district Burritos, massive tortillas overfilled with rice, refried beans and meat.  Truly a meal (or two) in itself.  I’ve had these from a Mexican street cart in New York and to be honest, they weren’t that great.  What are great are Carnitas, and as I’d volunteered to do the main then that’s what I’m going to cook!  Carnitas translate to little meats, these are little open tortilla parcels filled with highly spiced shredded pork, a little salsa (pico de gallo usually) and guacamole.  Here’s how I made them the other day, it was enough to feed ten hungry people – about 30 portions.  Although there were only 7 of us!

  • Cut up one whole pork shoulder butt into big chunks and season them liberally with salt.  Whilst the pork is salting, gently toast 3 pasilla, 4 ancho and 8 chipotle chillis in a dry pan till they are soft and malleable.  Don’t overdo them, they shouldn’t be too dry or brittle.  Remove the stalks and seeds and cut the chillis up into small pieces.  Cover with boiling water and let it soak for 15 minutes until the chillis are soft enough to blend into a smooth puree.  Whilst they are blending add 6 fat cloves of garlic and a tablespoon each of cinnamon and cumin.  That’s the mole made.
  • Brown the pork chunks all over in a shallow wide pan so that the meat is in one layer.  Add the mole and enough water to just cover the pork, stir well then stick the whole lot in a 150C oven uncovered for about 3 to 4 hours.  You will need to turn the pork occasionally when the top browns, maybe once an hour.
  • The pork is done when 80% of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is fork tender.  If too much liquid has gone before the meat is tender then simply add some more water.  Remove from the heat and when cool enough shred the pork with your hands.  The mixture should be moist and sloppy, ready for your carnitas!
  • Some people like their meat drier, you can after shredding put the meat back into a hot oven to crisp up but I like mine nice and sloppy!
  • Slap some meat on your tortilla (I prefer corn tortillas), add salsa and guacamole.  Eat and repeat till well stuffed.
Cheers Lap aka Prawncrackers aka Oishinboy



Linguine and purple sprouting broccoli

No parmesan in the house yesterday or indeed much of anything (how could this happen?), so I cooked this. Crispy fried breadcrumbs actually work much better than cheese in this dish, giving some textural contrast. I’m absolutely mad about the linguine I’ve discovered from Cav. Giuseppe Cocco, the bronze die cut gives it a rough surface which improves the taste and permits the pasta to pick up more sauce.


Serves 2

200g linguine, use a bronze die cut pasta such as Cav. Giuseppe Cocco
250g purple sprouting broccoli
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 anchovy fillets, whole
2 tbsp dry white wine
squeeze of lemon
50g breadcrumbs
chilli flakes

Cook linguine in the standard way (1 litre water per 100g pasta, at least 10g salt per litre of water). Meanwhile, rinse and roughly chop the purple sprouting broccoli. Cook garlic, anchovies and half the olive oil for a couple of minutes in a large frying pan or saucepan, without letting the garlic brown. Add purple sprouting broccoli and white wine and increase the heat. Cover and let the broccoli cook down well until very soft. Fry off the breadcrumbs in another pan with the rest of the olive oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the broccoli with a bit of the cooking water. Remove from heat, mix well and add salt and black pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon. Dish up, sprinkling over the toasted breadcrumbs and chilli.

Crab Linguine Recipe

Hannah said she wanted crab linguine, but she wanted a creamy version, not oily. Most web recipes for crab linguine are for the tried and tested olive oil, garlic, chili, lemon and parsley combo and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But there aren’t so many creamy versions, so I decided to make my own up.

As with all crab recipes it’s best when made with freshly cooked crab. But this recipe can be knocked up much more with the pasteurised crab meat you can find in the supermarket, which seems more practical for an after-work dinner. I like the “Seafood and Eat It” range as they do a half-and-half white and brown pack. The taste is fine. Lap introduced me to the idea of serving the brown crab meat as a loose pate, enriched with clarified butter, served on toast (sourdough would be good) alongside the pasta, and it’s a jolly good idea. And of course you should be generous with the crab meat which should be present in goodly amounts clinging to each strand, not searched for hopefully at the bottom of the plate.

Another recent pasta revelation is that I much prefer the Giuseppe Cocco linguine to de Cecco (too thick) or Waitrose’s own brand stuff, it’s narrower and so more sauce can adhere to the pasta, yet still keeps its texture.

Creamy Crab Linguine

Serves 2

200g linguine (Giuseppe Cocco)
150g white crab meat
50g brown crab meat
50g brown shrimps (crevette grise)
70g butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped / minced
50ml white wine
150ml fish stock
2 tbps double cream
Half a lemon
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Clarify the butter or – even better – if you have Morecombe Bay shrimps already in butter use that. Cook the shallot in about half the clarified butter until soft in a decent sized pan which will take the pasta later.

To make the brown crab pate:

Put half the softened shallot, the rest of the clarified butter and the brown crab meat in another saucepan and combine over a low heat. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Set aside. Add a drop of Pernod if you like.

To make the crab linguine:

Cook your pasta until al dente. While doing this add the white wine to the pan and cook until reduce by at least half. Add the fish stock and reduce by half. Add the white crab meat and brown shrimps and stir and remove from heat. Add the drained pasta and stir well. Add half the chopped parseley. Season to taste with salt (important!), pepper and lemon juice. Finish by stirring in the cream, still off the heat. Plate up and add the rest of the parsley.

Serve the brown crab pate on a piece of toast with the crab linguine.

Variation: garlic instead of onion in the pasta