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Steamed diamond shell clams & black mussels with rosemary oil

Food

4th June, 2013
Dave Verheul and Christian McCabe of The Town Mouse
Tuesday 4th June 2013

We're pretty bloody excited to welcome these superstars to the Tasty Tuesday column for the month of June.  Say hello to Dave Verheul and Christian McCabe of new Carlton eatery The Town Mouse!  These clever and very humble lads have been enjoying rave reviews since opening their doors on Drummond street just a month or so ago... they are, quite deservedly, flavour of the month.  With its flavourful menu and lovely cosy atmosphere, I know where I'll be spending my date nights this winter.  (Do check out their website and facebook page to whet the appetite!)

This month Dave (chef) and Christian (front of house) will share with us four of their favourite winter recipes, kicking things off today with their amazing clam bisque.  The rosemary oil is a revelation! - Lucy

Steamed diamond shell clams & black mussels with clam bisque, fennel and rosemary oil recipe by The Town Mouse.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

It's an unfortunate consequence of the impact of big agri-business that in an island nation such as ours we regard seafood as a delicacy rather than an every day source of naturally organic sustenance. If ever there was a way to eat more 'foods your grandma would recognise' then surely the fruits of the sea are it. Sure, maybe your grandma never had hers with clam bisque as delicious as this, but if she tasted this we're sure she'd approve!

Shellfish are an important part of the marine ecosystem and when grown properly using sustainable aquaculture techniques they can be good for the environment as well as good for you. There's nothing better than the salty-sweet taste of the sea that well cooked mussels and clams convey. And there's something humble about serving food that begs to be eaten with the fingers that breaks down the barriers of conversation and makes for a shared meal that fulfils that other great purpose of eating together – to connect with your fellow humans and strengthen your bonds of friendship.

The clam bisque is like mother's milk to us. This is food that fills the house with delicious smells, makes your neighbours jealous that they aren't having what you're having, and if we eat this dish in familiar company we won't hesitate to drink the last drops from the bowl. You can of course serve it with crusty bread, which we recommend, for a much more polite way of ensuring no drop is wasted.

When you make it be sure to make extra bisque for the freezer, it stores well and is an amazing and quick thing to be able to cook for yourself midweek - all you have to do is pick up some shellfish and you can have comfort food on the table in minutes.

The rosemary oil may seem like an unnecessary frill on an already delicious plate, but we're sure that once you have this in your life you'll use it on many other things – lamb chops, roasted fish, late night tomatoes on toast!

Dave patiently posed for about 100 photos with his hand buried in shellfish for us.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

Ingredients

For the clam bisque

1 onion
2 celery stalks
½ fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves
500g clams
200ml white wine
750ml fish stock
1 bayleaf
½ rosemary stalk
½ tsp white peppercorns
75g crème fraiche

For the rosemary oil

1 rosemary bunch
150ml vegetable oil

Shellfish per serve

10 black mussels
5 diamond shell clams

Method

For the clam bisque

Place the clams into a plastic bag and then wrap in tea towel, bash them until completely broken with something hard like the back of a cleaver. Make sure to save all of the juices.

Slice the onion, celery, fennel and garlic thinly. In a medium pot with a splash of olive oil gently sweat these until softened without losing any colour. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add in the clams and fish stock, bring to the boil and skim well. Add the herbs and peppercorns and simmer gently for 30 mins. Take off the heat and let sit for 20 minutes before straining through a fine sieve. Chill.

Once your clam stock has chilled, combine 500ml of it with 75g of crème fraiche, and blend the two together using a stick blender.

For the rosemary oil

Pick all of the leaves from the rosemary and place in a blender, blend on high speed adding the oil in until it blends freely. Strain through a fine sieve.

To finish 

Carefully shave the fennel using a mandolin as thin as you can. Set aside.

Place the bisque in a medium pot with a lid and bring to the boil. Add in the clams and mussels, cook quickly on a full flame, while gently shaking the pot every now and then as this will help them to cook evenly.

Remove when the shells open and place into your serving bowl, then scatter the shaved fennel over the top. Quickly whisk the bisque and pour over, and finish with a final drizzle of rosemary oil.

Serve with crusty bread.

Christian (left) and Dave (right) enjoy their clam bisque after our shoot. (don't worry I tucked in too - it was AMAZING!). Photo - Sean Fennessy.

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