Chilli and Garlic Razor Clams with Saffron Mayonnaise - BBC

Chilli and Garlic Razor Clams with Saffron Mayonnaise - BBC

Chilli and Garlic Razor Clams

with Saffron Mayonnaise

Serves 4 (as a starter)

12 fresh, live razor clams

200ml virgin olive oil

1 long red chilli, very finely chopped

(deseed first if you like, but we don’t)

8 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely sliced

2 good pinches flaked sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Saffron mayonnaise (optional)

good pinch saffron

2 tsp just-boiled water

1 tsp harissa (we used the Belazu Rose harissa)

100g good quality mayonnaise


50g fresh white rustic bread, such as ciabatta,

torn into small pieces

1 tbsp virgin olive oil

small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley,

roughly chopped


The razor clam is so called due to

its extremely sharp shell resembling

a cut-throat razor. The clams are a

traditional local delicacy in Orkney,

where they are commonly known as

“spoots”, as they “spoot” water along

the exposed stretches of sand at low tide.

Living under the surface in wet

sand, “spoots” are not easy to catch.

The introduction of dry salt, or better

still saline solution, into their burrows

will sometimes bring them to the surface

so they can be pulled out.

Historical facts provided by Monica Askay,

Cook and Food Historian

① To make the mayonnaise (if using), put the saffron

threads in a small heatproof bowl and stir in the justboiled

water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes. Put the

mayonnaise in a bowl and stir in the harissa, saffron

and water until well combined. Cover the surface of

the mayonnaise with cling film and leave to stand.

② To make the crumbs, put the bread pieces and oil in

a small non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium

heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly with a

wooden spoon until nicely browned and crisp. Set

aside and when cool, scatter with parsley and toss

lightly together.

③ Give the razor clams a good wash and discard any that

remain closed when tapped on the edge of the sink or

those with cracked or damaged shells. Half fill a large

saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the

clams and cook for just a few seconds until you see

the shells open. Do not allow to overcook or they will

become rubbery. Tip immediately into a colander in

the sink and drain well. Discard any clams that don’t

open after cooking.

④ Put the oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic,

chilli, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Place over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring. Do not

allow the garlic to colour – and definitely don’t let it

get too hot or leave unattended. The idea is to soften

the garlic and chilli and infuse the oil. Remove from

the heat.

⑤ When the clams are cool enough to handle, take one

and carefully open. Ease the clam out of its shell and

using a small pair of scissors or a sharp knife, working

from one end, open the clam to separate the pieces.

Cut out the blackly brown sack which runs along the

length of each clam and discard. (This may contain

sand and be pretty yucky to eat.) Also trim off the

dark tipped end and pull away the long feathery

gills. Wipe any sandy bits clean with a damp piece

of kitchen paper. You should be left with a couple

of pieces of white clam meat. Snip diagonally with

scissors and return the pieces to one half of the shell.

(Cutting them this way will make them easier –

and more appetising to eat.)

⑥ Place the clam in a large, shallow ovenproof dish, shell

side down. Repeat with the rest of the clams. You

should end up with a neat dish of clams, meat facing

upwards. Preheat the electric grill to its hottest setting

and set the shelf around 12cm away from the element.

Reheat the flavoured oil but do not allow to bubble.

Spoon the garlic and chilli oil all over the clams.

⑦ Place the dish under the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes

or until the clams are hot. (Don’t allow the clams to

overcook or they could become rubbery.) Remove

from the grill. Scatter with the parsley crumbs and

serve with spoonfuls of saffron mayonnaise.


The chilli originated in Mexico and was

brought to Europe in the late 15th century.

It was taken to Goa by the Portuguese and

became incorporated into Indian cooking.

Saffron, the most expensive spice,

originated in Asia Minor. It had both

medicinal and culinary uses, and was also

used as a dye. Saffron Walden, the town

in Essex, takes its name from the spice

because it was once cultivated there and has

recently been reintroduced.

Historical facts provided by Monica Askay,

Cook and Food Historian

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