Friday, January 8


Or razor clams, as they are more commonly known. A taste of Britain explains how 'spoots' as they are called in Scotland are only really eaten in the Orkney Islands and a few other corners of Scotland, and this habit is derived purely from the fact that Orkney islanders in particular will eat anything in bad weather, is the implication. The book dates from about 15 years ago.

Plus ca change! These days they are considered as something of a delicacy; I have seen Jamie Oliver steaming them as part of a seafood BBQ on his Jamie at home series, and if you Google for recipes, there is no shortage of suggestions. I ate a plate of them at a pub in the Isle of Wight last year and thoroughly enjoyed them - doused in garlic butter!

Of course for most people the difficult bit (after persuading yourself to eat them) is actually finding them. In Deptford we are incredibly lucky to have several wet fish shops in a single shopping street, and the presence of a mixture of West Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese local population also means that there is a high demand for all sorts of unusual fish and seafood. Razor clams are regularly on sale in at least one of our local wet fish shops and today I decided to try some.

I decided to grill them until the shells opened, then chuck them in a pan with some leeks and spring onion that had been sweated in butter and oil, chilli, garlic, white wine and fresh parsley for a couple of minutes and serve with bread.

This article helped me work out how to prepare them and which bits were best to eat, but I found the preparation was a bit disconcerting and it wasn't till afterwards that I read Meemalee's account of preparing razor clams and completely empathised with her!

Comments such as 'I still have nightmares about the plooshing noise the clams made as I washed them' and 'Try not to freak out as the live clams begin to ooze out and loll around before closing up' give you some idea of what to expect. Now I've dressed crabs and cleaned squid without any problem, but I did find the squirtyness of these spoots rather unappealing.

I think my big mistake was to throw them in a bowl of water to wash them, rather than doing it under running water. They seemed to suck up the water like they hadn't drunk anything for about a week (probably the case) and the clams came 'oozing and lolling' out of their shells like it was going out of fashion. I hurriedly lifted them out of the water onto the draining board, at which point they began plooshing and squirting the water out at each end, in between plenty of squelching noises. This continued as I put them under the grill and made me feel very vividly that this was perhaps a rather cruel death to subject them to.

I did enjoy the flavour of the clams, and would eat them again if I got the chance, but I would caution that their preparation is not for the faint hearted or even the vaguely squeamish among you!


Felix said...

I love this post and don't mind amitting to a little envy re: your delicious haul from the fish-shops of Deptford.

In August I went all around the coasts of Cornwall armed with a bucket and some salt ready to try and tempt/lure/hunt spoots from their burrows on various beaches. Though there were many shells attesting to their presence, I was unsuccessful!

My inspiration was watching Ray Mears, and again this book that you have sounds equally inspiring.

I did acquire some limpets which I felt similarly ambivalent about killing when they met their end on the BBQ and which made ominous/pitiful bubbling sounds.

I enjoyed your sonic description of the squirty spoots and hope I am robust enough in character to deal with their oozing/lolling/squelching if I am ever lucky enough to find one in the wild.

colleen said...

We also have a decent fishmonger nearby in the market and I bought some razor clams from him once - they looked so beautiful. Never again - the most distressing cooking experience ever. Completely freaked me out.

I'd never known them as spoots before but what an apt onomatopoeiac name.

meemalee said...

Oh hello! So glad my post didn't put you off spoots - they are so delicious and worth the trauma :)

I'm glad I found your blog - I really want to learn how to knit - I just learnt how to crochet and am dead proud of myself!

Catherine said...

Ewww, you have totally put me off!!

Paul Bommer said...

Had a delicious plateful of these in a great little back street seafood restaurant in Venice. They were divine.