Spaghetti Vongole

Spaghetti Vongole

inspired by Luciano’s

Today’s the day!

Restaurants and pubs across the country can start to reopen!

Even with all the stress that has come from the past few weeks; the lack of time to prepare, government guidance often providing more questions than answers; so many businesses are ready.

It just goes to show how amazingly adaptable this industry is.

We hoped to be opening one of Aidan’s pubs today. But in the end they weren’t able to get beer delivered until next week. Breweries had stopped brewing. So even when they started up again it will take a while before every pub in the country is fully stocked. And open without draught beer? No thanks. We’re opening on Tuesday.

It doesn’t mean there hasn’t still been lots to do though. Signs and floor stickers to put out, a deep clean, getting kitchens up and running again. The list is endless. Having a few extra days has turned out to be a blessing.

So as much as people will go out today, and celebrate that we can be in a pub, or sit down for a restaurant meal, we should all remember the places that either haven’t, or can’t, open yet.

Some businesses just want a little longer to get ready. Some are remodelling or refurbishing to better meet the needs of social distancing. And there are many, many places that just aren’t opening because they wouldn’t have any business.

Pubs and restaurants in the City. Places in the West End. With people still working from home and no tourists there are simply too many businesses that can’t justify opening yet. Because parts of this city are still empty.

But there are so many positive signs out there. Westminster council allowing places in Soho to put tables and chairs outside, as streets become pedestrianised after 5pm.

The new apps and restaurant websites that let you order and pay from your phone. Virtual queuing systems and streamlined menus allowing for social distancing in kitchens.

This is an industry at the beginning of a reinvention. And we are all invited to watch and support as they do.

As much as I’m desperate to go to a restaurant today, there is just too much to do getting the pub ready. If I’m honest until it’s open we are both a bit too stressed to sit down and enjoy a meal out anyway. We will go out later this week to celebrate reopening.

But if I was going to a restaurant today I would be going to Luciano’s, our local Italian restaurant. Because if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to support our local businesses and communities.

They are opening today. Offering takeaway and delivery alongside eat in options. With a new website for ordering and a one way system. I hope they have the most amazing day.

We’ll be there soon, we promise.

So for now I’m simply dedicating a dish to them. One of my all time favourite pasta dishes is Spaghetti Vongole. The last time I ate it was in February, at Luciano’s.

Until last night that is. When I cooked with clams at home for the very first time.

I’ve been wanted to make this dish ever since lockdown started. But getting hold of clams is tricky. None of the online fishmongers I looked at stocked them. With fish counters closed there was no hope of them being in the supermarkets. Even Waitrose didn’t have them.

But a wonderful trip to Borough Market finally delivered. I went home the proud owner of 1kg of clams.

It’s not just that I’ve never cooked with clams before, I’ve never cooked any shellfish. Not even mussels. For some reason this is one of those ingredients that I love to eat in restaurants, but just don’t cook at home.

First step is to put my clams into some really salty water (as salty as seawater) for 20 minutes so they can clean themselves. I know it sounds strange but you forget that they are still alive. Until you put them in the water and you can see them twitching and releasing little bubbles.

After their soak in salt water they get a rinse and sit in fresh (unsalted) water for a few minutes to get rid of the excess salt.

I put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta.

In a large frying pan with a lid I add a splash of olive oil. In goes some chopped red chilli and garlic. Once they’ve fried for a few minutes I add the clams and some white wine, on goes the lid and I wait for the clams to open.

I’m following a recipe from Great Italian Chefs. In this they say to shake the pan every 20 seconds and that the clams should open up after 2 minutes. My clams take longer, almost four minutes before they have all opened. Except one which gets thrown away. Never eat shellfish that doesn’t fully open.

I dray the cooked spaghetti across from the boiling water, add some chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon, and let the whole thing sit, off the heat, for a few minutes to let the pasta soak up the clam juices.

It’s an enormous plateful. But I guess Vongole always is, as you’ve got all the shells there you don’t eat. So it’s probably a perfectly normal portion if you take the shells out of the equation.

I’m stuffed. That was definitely not a normal portion. But that didn’t stop me eating it all.

That was delicious. I’m so glad I’ve finally cooked this dish. So often shellfish can be daunting for a home cook, but it needn’t be. I will be getting more clams soon for sure.

But next time I eat Vongole, I want it to be at Luciano’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *