ROAST HALIBUT WITH CLAMS, CORIANDER AND LIME
|4||Halibut fillets (skinless pavés), 150g each|
|250g||Clams – palourdes or surf|
|8||Razor clams, or another 250g palourdes|
|½||Bunch fresh coriander, freshly chopped|
|2||Shallots, peeled and finely sliced|
|A small knob of butter|
|½||Glass dry white wine|
|50g||Samphire and sea purslane, rinsed|
- Start by thoroughly picking over your shellfish. With the little clams – as with mussels and cockles – none of the shells should be broken or stay gaping open after a gentle rap on the side of the sink – if they do they are dead and should be discarded. When they are cooked it’s the opposite – if a clam stays tightly shut when all his friends have popped open then he should be thrown away too. Put your scrutinised clams in a bowl and let the cold tap gently run over them for 5 minutes then drain them and keep them cool. The razor clams will also need rinsing gently under water.
- Warm a wide pan with a lid until very hot and place the razor clams inside. Quickly add a little splash of water to help them steam open then cover quickly with the lid. 30 seconds later they should have steamed open. Drain them, passing the juice through the finest sieve you have. The liquor from clams makes a fantastic sauce.
- Remove the long, light coloured meaty part of the clam from the shells and discard the darker stomachy bits. Slice the meat of the clam into thin lozenges and keep them cold, with a dash of their liquor on top to keep them moist. If you’re partial to a little restaurant presentation keep four of the half shells to present the dish later, boiling them quickly to sterilise.
- Sweat the shallots gently in the butter, and pour over the white wine. Reduce the wine by half, then pour over the clam juice. Reduce that by half then pass the sauce through a sieve into a little pan. Add the crème fraiche and bring to a gentle simmer. If you boil the sauce you’ll lose its freshness and it will quickly become a heavy, greasy mess.
- Grate the bright green zest from half of one lime and add it to the sauce. Squeeze in the juice of the lime – the sauce should be light, fresh and slightly acid. Check for salt – the clam liquor itself can often be salty enough.
- Lightly season the halibut, making sure it’s nice and dry. In a non-stick pan heat a little olive oil and roast the fish on a medium heat. After 2 minutes turn the fish and continue cooking on the other side. After another 2 minutes remove the fish to a warm place to rest – it should be only just cooked through.
- Pour the clams in the shell into the hot pan and shake around to open. Throw in the samphire, sea purslane and cut razor clams to quickly warm through – too much heat here will turn the clams tough and chewy.
- Put the halibut into deep bowls and pour the clams and sea vegetables around and into the razor clam shells. Quickly lighten the sauce with a brisk whisking or a little buzz of the hand-blender and pour it over and around. Finish with a sprinkling of Cornish salt, the roughly chopped coriander (including the stalks, as that’s where a lot of the green, vibrant flavour is found) and a fresh lime wedge.
- Razor clams are a rare treat – they don’t like hanging around at the fishmonger once they’ve been caught. If you’re lucky enough to find them It’s easy to tell a live one – they’ll be wriggling about from the end of the shell. If they’re not lively, I wouldn’t bother. There is excellent farmed Halibut around – some of the best is raised sustainably and organically on Gigha in the cold waters of the Hebrides. It is well worth seeking out.