Growing up we’d head to the beach to get pipis, mainly for fish bait but also for eating. Going at low tide so that we’d be able to get them at the shoreline, trousers rolled up and our thongs (flip flops) precariously hanging on to our feet as the waves rolled in. Once a wave receded, we’d dig through the sand with our hands in hope of catching a handful of pipis, or cockles as they are called outside of Australia. There would always be one eye looking at the waves, making sure we were safe as one was always told to never turn your back to the sea. The other eye would be looking out for bubbles surfacing from within the sand, a sign that there were pipis just a little dig away. Once you grabbed a handful and flung them into the bucket, a smile would spread wide across your face. There was going to be dinner tonight, one way or another! Interestingly, Ireland also has a history with cockles. The famous Molly Malone song by The Dubliners sings the tale of fishmonger Molly where she’d be trying to sell her wares, crying “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”. Despite this, cockles aren’t very popular in Ireland so hopefully this might change their minds! Serves two as a main, served with crusty bread or fries, or as a starter for four.
Prep time: 10mins, plus purging time
Cook time: 10mins
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1kg pipis (cockles)
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
- 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Firstly prepare the pipis (cockles): if self caught, place them in a bucket of fresh salt water for at least four hours, or overnight. Either use fresh sea water from the beach, or for each litre of water add 30g of salt. Place them in a cool area; do not place them in the fridge or they won’t purge themselves. During this time they will expel any sand within. Store bought pipis should already be prepared, check with your fishmonger. If buying store bought pipis, check that they have intact and shining shells and that they are closed or will close if gently tapped on a firm surface. Be sure to cook store bought pipis as soon as possible. Do not skip the purging, as pipis with sand is not pleasant.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and onion, fry for two minutes or until translucent.
- Add garlic and fry for a further minute.
- Add the tomato and fry for a further two minutes.
- Add the paprika, stock powder, chilli powder (optional) and white wine. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil.
- Add the pipis (cockles) and cover the saucepan with a lid. Cook until the pipis have opened their shells (approximately five minutes.) Remove opened pipis, so not to overcook them, until all have opened. Discard any pipis that refuse to open. Serve with chopped parsley, and enjoy!