Pipis and periwinkles with new potatoes and seaweed butter
One of the greatest culinary gifts from North America is clamato juice, which is the combination of tomato juice and clam broth. It has an incredible balance of acids and umami, and, when combined with vodka and celery and pickles, things get wild. It was a brave person to first decide on serving this combination cold.
A direct relative of the clam in the bivalve sector is the pipi. The pipi is defined by a triangular shell and is found in the shallows of estuaries and beach sand flats. Pipis are very accessible to gather – you just need to be wary of the catch limits and any nearby contaminants that could affect the water quality. A quick purge overnight in clear saltwater will deal with the sand and grit, then just give one final rinse and you are good to go.
There are few things that conjure up stronger images of summer for me than shuffling barefoot in shallow saltwater and sand to track pipis down. Alternatively, they are about $18 a kilo from the market.
For the next level of funk, we bring in the periwinkle. On a recent trip to the west coast of Tasmania I survived almost exclusively on these grilled open over coals. I have since developed a real love for them. Almost like a poor man’s abalone, they can go horribly wrong with the texture if cooked too long or too short. But persist and the rewards are worthwhile.
This dish is a bit of a celebration of all things shallow-water-gathering. Plus, the addition of potatoes and butter has never hurt a thing.
- 100g shallots, sliced
- olive oil
- 60ml sherry vinegar
- 20g kombu
- 80g wakame
- zest of 1 lemon
- 200g butter, diced (at room temperature)
- salt and pepper
- 100g periwinkles
- 200g pipis
- 150ml white wine
- 1 clove garlic
- 400g waxy very small potatoes (pink fir apple or Dutch cream)
- 300ml chicken stock
- lemon juice
- 6 large leaves French sorrel, shredded
- Cook the sliced shallots in a little olive oil until they begin to brown, then remove from the heat and deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar. Toast the seaweeds in an oven at about 170ºC for about 10 minutes, then crush them in your hands, place in a spice grinder and render to dust. Combine the shallots, lemon zest, butter and seaweeds in a bowl and mix until smooth. Season heavily with salt and pepper, then roll into a log and seal in cling wrap. Refrigerate.
- To prepare the periwinkles, place an empty, heavy-based pot large enough to hold them in a single layer over a high heat. Put the periwinkles in a bowl, run under cold water and agitate for 10 seconds or so. Retain about 100 millilitres of the water in the bowl with the periwinkles, then tip it all into the scalding hot pot. Place a tight-fitting lid over the pot, then agitate over the heat several times for the 40 seconds it will take to cook. Tip the periwinkles back into the bowl and let cool for about one minute before removing the meat. I find the best way is to take a turning knife or thick canvas sewing needle, then flick the protective shell out of the cavity before piercing the meat and pulling out. This is the point where you can decide how adventurous you want to be by setting boundaries for how much of the moving parts you want to eat. (Things get more intense towards the tail.)
- For the pipis, it’s much the same, so reheat the pot over the flame and tip the pipis, wine and garlic clove in once it is hot. Place a snug-fitting lid on and agitate regularly. Keep an eye on the pipis and remove them when they have popped open, one by one. Strain the juice back over the cooked pipis and let them sit.
- Boil the potatoes gently in their skin in salted water until cooked, then remove the skin. Place the potatoes back into a pot, together with about 100 millilitres of the stock from the pipis and the chicken stock, and simmer gently. This liquid will reduce and thicken slightly with the starch released from the potatoes. Once the liquid is about the consistency of pouring cream, add 120 grams of the seaweed butter and stir over a gentle heat until melted. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice.
- Place the potatoes on a plate and finish with the pipis and periwinkles and shredded sorrel leaves.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 12, 2018 as "Washing and serving pips and periwinkle".
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