I suspect that the Month of Shellfish is about to transition abruptly into the Autumn of Insanely Busy (more on that later). Before that happens, I had to make sure we got one last batch of cockles in. I am really quite madly in love with these little suckers. My dad asked me the difference between cockles and clams. I wasn’t able to find a consistent answer, but it seems that “clams” can be used quite broadly to include all bivalves except for oysters, mussels and scallops. Cockles are a subset of clams — fair to say that all cockles are clams but not all clams are cockles. Is it a meaningless distinction? Not to me.
Cockles are commonly served as a bar snack here in the UK. I’d say they taste like a marriage of clams and mussels. They are easy to cook and we’ve been enjoying our weekly pot of bivalves while the Fours have their dinner. The best of both worlds — dinner with the kids followed by a proper adult meal once they’ve gone to bed.
After a month of experiments, I’ve settled on this treatment for my molluscs. I start a pot of water to boil with a sliced up lemon, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt. Depending on what I have around, I may throw in other herbs or seaweed or a slosh of wine. I simmer this (5-30 minutes) while I do other things. When I finally remember the simmering liquid, I toss in the cockles (or clams or mussels) and let them boil for 3-4 minutes (or until they are all opened) and drain them.
Yes, there are more sophisticated preparations. Yes, I made this up and am probably doing something wrong. But, if this is wrong, I am not sure I need to be right. My family devours these so quickly that I would be annoyed if they were any harder to make. The Fours like to use one empty shell to grab the next little cockle. They also like to make them talk and put on little cockle conversations during dinner.