This dish is inspired by a delicious lunch I ate recently. The chef had used mussels but when I went to the fishmonger today the clams were so appealing I decided they would work equally well. They are the large palourde clams but little ones would do or mussels if they are easier to come by. Fregola is a Sardinian speciality- pasta shaped into little balls. You could use giant cous cous but it will take less time to cook and it is important not to end up with a mushy mess. The idea is the pasta retains a little bite. Prepare the clams in the same way as mussels: scrub the shells, soak in cold water for 30 minutes and drain. Discard any clams with broken shells or ones that remain open when gently tapped-this means they are dead.
- 150g fregola
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small leeks, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- 120g chorizo, skin removed and finely diced
- 1 large pinch saffron strands
- 2 large beef tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
- 250ml vegetable stock
- 14 large palourde clams, about 850-900g
- 100ml vermouth
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the fregola and bring back to the boil. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until the pasta is just cooked but still has a bit of bite. Drain and refresh under cold water. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the leeks and garlic over a low heat for 8-10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Transfer the leeks to a dish, wipe out the pan and add the chorizo. Cook over a low heat for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned. Stir the leeks back into the chorizo and add the saffron, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the fregola and cook for a further 6-8 minutes.
- While the fregola is cooking you can cook the clams. Pour the vermouth and 100ml water into a saucepan. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Tip in the prepared clams, cover with a lid and leave to cook for about 5-6 minutes by which time they should all have opened. Discard any clams that remain shut. Take off the heat and tip the clams and cooking liquor into the fregola. Taste and season with salt and ground black pepper. Serve immediately.