Friday, 2 September 2011

Spaghetti Vongole

Us Brits are a nation of animal lovers, apparently. A fact reflected in what we eat. Although there are an odd few who keep chickens, sheep and even pigs as pets the vast majority of us don't. Because we want to eat them.

Admittedly some of those who keep farm animals as pets do end up eating them, but I can't imagine a chicken called Sally tastes a great deal better than one called £5.99 from the butcher. Familiarity may breed contempt but it doesn't guarantee flavour.

There is a more practical view of animals in other parts of the world. Dog may not feature on many menus seen by tourists in South-East Asia but it does appear in the diet of ordinary people at home in Vietnam and Cambodia. France hasn't produced any famous jockeys and I can't help but think that the reason is because they'd rather eat horses than watch them run round a field.

Put simply, some animals are meant to be eaten and some aren't. There was no heartache, then, when we recently said goodbye to our clams.

We had only had them for 24 hours before we decided that they would make a much better spaghetti vongole than a house pet - having said that, we live in a flat so they weren't such a bad idea. We bought them from the excellent fish market in Kirkgate Market (terrible website alert!) in Leeds.

The stalls at this market sell a range of fish that I haven't come across in this country. Fresh conger eel, clams, parrot fish are some of the more exotic varieties on offer. The stalls also provide the restaurants of Leeds with their fish so it would be safe to assume that there is a high turnover of produce, which means the fish is fresh.

Once you've got some clams making spaghetti vongole is straightforward. We used about 100g of clams per person, and cooked them in a pan along with 4 cloves of garlic (we like garlic), half an onion, a small glass of wine, a chilli and olive oil. The clams cook till they open and then get mixed with cooked spaghetti.

This is the kind of meal that would cost the best part of a tenner in a restaurant, yet at home it can be made for a couple of quid. It's well worth it.

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