Aditya Bal teaches us five essential kitchen techniques while making black littleneck clams with smoky peppers, cherry tomatoes & orange
This simple recipe is a pan sauté using clams and smoky red peppers to great effect to create a super tapas dish. Though it is simple and quick to make, it incorporates a few basic but fundamental techniques of cookery that are important for a cook to master. For a couple of variations, add hot spaghetti to the clams once they are cooked and toss to make a delicious pasta or plate in a shallow soup plate with a piece of grilled fish and some fresh rocket dressed with lemon juice and olive oil to make a posh supper.
20 to 25 black littleneck clams washed and scrubbed of all sand and grit
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of fresh basil with finely chopped stalks
1 small hot dry red chilly
2 cloves garlic sliced thinly
1 small red pepper
Handful of fresh cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp brown sugar or honey
100 ml orange juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A squeeze of lime
A small knob of butter
FIRE ROASTING OR CHARRING:
Prick the red pepper in a few places with a knife, then place it over hot coals or a gas flame and char it well on all sides. This gives it a beautiful smoky flavour and aroma. While that’s happening, slice you cherry tomatoes in half and chop up your basil stems finely. Once the pepper is evenly blacked on all sides, turn off the heat and place it in a plastic bag. Once it has cooled, remove from the bag and peel off the skin. The heat from the pepper will steam the skin making it a cinch to peel. Slice the peppers into thin strips.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy non-stick pan and once it’s warm, add the garlic, chilly and chopped basil stalk and fry them gently until the garlic is lightly golden in colour and the basil and chilly are very fragrant.
COOKING CLAMS & OTHER BIVALVES: Add the clams to the pan and turn up the heat. Toss the clams a couple of times; add a drop of water and cover for a minute or two or until the clams begin to open. Now add the cherry tomatoes to the pan, followed by the roasted pepper. Season well and toss everything to mix well.
DEGLAZING: Once all the clams have opened, add the orange juice to the pan and deglaze by scraping the deposits and clam juices that have coagulated on the base of the pan. This forms the base of the flavour-packed sauce. This technique is used time and again to capture flavour-rich pan deposits in countless dishes all over the world. A Punjabi mutton rarra is a prime example of this technique being used to create flavourful gravy.
REDUCTION: Toss all the ingredients together to coat everything in the delicious but still runny pan sauce. Turn the heat down and simmer the ingredients until reduced by half and fairly thick. Add sugar, lime juice and butter to the pan, shaking it to emulsify the butter and give the sauce a good sheen and a light, buttery richness. The process of reduction is used to concentrate flavors while thickening sauces in consistency. An example of a reduction is a simple thyme and red wine reduction.
To finish, scatter the basil leaves, toss together a few times and serve in small bowls with crusty bread and a crisp white wine. Bon appétit!
Former model Aditya Bal is a self-taught chef who started cooking just 6 years ago, gaining his kitchen experience by working in a clutch of Goan restaurants. He has published The Chakh Le India cookbook, based on a popular show, with the same name, that he hosts on NDTV Good Times.