Spaghetti vongole

Shellfish are one of my favourite ways to eat fresh seafood. Clams, mussels, cockles and oysters seem to hold mouthfuls of the delicious ozone you get from being near a crashing wave and release them only under pressure of heat or the shuckers knife.
It is worth tracking down a good seafood supplier and taking the time to prepare the shellfish yourself – i dread to think how the supermarkets do it on an industrial scale.
Be aware this recipe involves soaking the clams for at least two hours so maybe put them in the fridge to soak before you leave for work.
This dish marries my love of Italian food with the simple tiny clam which seems to inhabit a shell far to large for itself.
There are very few ingredients in the dish which is usually a sign of a classic and this recipe is adapted from one by my friend Felicity Cloake whose wonderful work perfecting the “perfect” example of so many recipes has helped me on many a culinary task.
You can buy her book from Amazon. Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook’s Repertoire


Ingredients – for one serving

Three handfuls of small clams
100g spaghetti (dried)
Two knobs of butter
Splash of good extra virgin olive oil
One clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 medium-hot red chilli, finely chopped
Half a glass of dry white wine
tbsp of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Two grates of lemon zest and a spritz of juice


1. Rinse the clams in cold running water, and scrub if necessary, then put them into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Salt generously and leave for a couple of hours, then drain and rinse well to remove any grit or sand.

2. Put the spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes under the recommended time, until nearly done.

3. Meanwhile, put a knob of butter and the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and soften the garlic and chilli.

4. Add the drained clams, and turn up the heat. Pour in the wine, cover and leave for a couple of minutes until most of them have opened. Discard any that are still closed. Add the others to the sauce, picking a few out of their shells for variety.

5. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan along with the remaining knob of butter. Toss well and leave for a minute, then stir through the chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, season to taste and serve.


Spaghetti with courgettes

This is probably one of my favourite lightning quick week night dinners during the summer when my allotment is throwing out courgettes like missiles.

It’s simple to make and contains chilli, garlic and salt – ingredients which go really well together – in fact the garlic I’ve used in the picture was also home grown.

The other lovely aspect of this dish is you can fiddle with the ratios depending on your taste and make enough for a a family or simply a meal for one.


 Recipe – serves one


Two average-sized courgettes (any variety and the fresher the better but you can also use big ones just cook down for longer)

Half a red chilli, finely chopped 

Half a garlic clove, finely chopped 

Pinch of salt and grinds of pepper

100g of pasta (I prefer spaghetti)

Splash of olive oil



1) Boil a saucepan of water and cook pasta as pack instructions.

2) Using a box grater grate the courgettes on the medium blades.

3) Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and add chilli and garlic.

4) Add courgettes, stir and add a pinch of salt and couple of grinds of black pepper.

5) Stir occasionally while pasta cooks but do not let courgettes brown, you are trying to draw some of the moisture out of the vegetables not brown them.

6) Drain pasta and add to the courgettes, stir, transfer to a plate or bowl and grate over some Parmigiano-Reggiano if you have some.