Cockles With Amaretto And Coconut Rice

I'm a massive fan of cockles, or berberechos as they are known in Catalunya. And I've long been an advocate of cooking seafood with Amaretto, the bitter-sweet flavour of which I think is a perfect complement for the salty, umami flavours of the sea. Especially when given a tropical twist. So what better dish than cockles with Amaretto and coconut rice!

Ingredients (serves 1)

300g live cockles
150g short-grain rice
1 tin coconut milk
2 knobs butter
20ml Amaretto


Start by melting a knob of butter in a pan to which you add some short grain rice. It's important to use a dessert rice or risotto rice for this dish and not a patna or basmati long grain variety. Lightly fry the rice for ten or twenty seconds and then add some salt and a whole can of coconut milk. The idea behind this was along the lines of making a coconut "rice pudding", the texture and creaminess of which would complement the salty-sweet combination of cockles and Amaretto.

While waiting for the rice to cook, check the cockles to make sure they are all still alive. To do this, use exactly the same method you would employ for mussels or other bivalve molluscs. The procedure involves gently tapping the shells of any cockles that are slightly open and making sure that they quickly close up again. If you see no reaction it means the cockle is already dead and should be discarded. If you've ever eaten a bad cockle, or worse still a bad oyster, you'll understand the importance of this food hygiene check.
A light coconut "rice puddding"

Cooking the cockles in butter and AmarettoOnce the rice is bubbling away and only a few minutes from being ready, take a second pan and melt another knob of butter. Toss in the cockles, quickly shake the pan around and then add a generous glug of the Amaretto. Put a lid on the pan and steam the cockles for three or four minutes until the shells have all opened, taking care not to over-cook them.

Remove the cockles from the pan, discarding any that have not opened. Turn the heat up to full and quickly reduce down the small remaining quantity of Amaretto into a syrup-like sauce. Plate the rice, place the cockles on top and drizzle the reduction around.

Berberechos con Amaretto y arroz de coco - delicious!