Monday, 27 September 2010

I'm Beaching

And what a remarkably splendid day for beaching it was. There was a hint of autumn chill in the air (appropriate I suppose, it now being autumn) as we straggled down to the shore. But the strong sun blazed in our faces, bringing a pleasant illusion of the height of summer. It was a bit of a family outing: my mum and wee nephew came along with my wife and me.

My mother wanted some cockles for dinner, so I took a rake with me and got to work on the banked-up mud mud/shingle areas that usually harbour a reasonable quantity of them. Cockles can also be found just peeking up through the sand, orientated on their sides. But they were being unusually reclusive yesterday, so the rake did the trick. The buried ones develop bands of grey staining from the deeper, dark-coloured mud/sand but this must quickly bleach out when they spend time near the surface (on holiday or whatever - maybe their reverse equivalent of a nice tan).

Meanwhile my nephew exclaimed victory as he uncovered a cockle with the aid of his tiny trowel. He rinsed it off in one of the muddy little pools he had christened "pudholes", before adding it proudly to the bucket.

Later we paddled out into the sea as the tide crept in over the warm sand.

When we got back to the house my mother decided that she couldn't be bothered dealing with the cockles. I think she remembers the industrial quantities she used to collect in the Western Isles and so thought that this small bucket-full was more hassle than it was worth. I gladly accepted her inverted charity, remembering how filling and satisfying even a small quantity can be.

I brought the cockles just to the boil before cooling and shelling them. I then chopped some chorizo and fried it in butter until the tasty red paprika-oil was leaching out of it. The cockle meats, some garlic salt and some crushed chillies went into the ferociously-hot pan for a minute or so. If you cook the cockle meats for too long the little cossack-boot-shaped morsels begin to take on just that texture (it was tough back in the Steppe, or is that instep?). Anyway, a delicious and substantial starter - more like a main Tapas dish.

While I busied myself preparing the next course my wife took the pan of empty cockle shells down to the shore to add to our burgeoning mock-neolithic midden. A word of advice - if you are going to launch a pan of shells onto the shore at high velocity, make sure your pan has a well-attached handle. She nearly sconed a cormorant.

Now, where's my superglue?

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