In all my years here I have tried fishing, crabbing, catching squid and even caught an eel once but I’ve never been cockling. Growing up in a main city of a hot country, our childhood activities were very much indoors for most part of the day. For the comfort of not being clammy and to avoid the skin damaging sun. I’m still very much a stay-in-shade person, you won’t find me chasing the sun but when so much outdoor beauty is this accessible I have to venture out for my Vitamin D fix once in a while. The irony? The sun is much much stronger here than where I came from.
My dad loves cockles, he wouldn’t have prawns or squid but he loved cockles. Cooked in sambal, stir fried in chilli, steamed and dipped in chilli sauce, in curry laksa, it was all delicious to him. It dawned on me that it’s been a while since I had any which spurred me on to cooking this Chilli Clams. It was so well received by Mr Foodie and reminded me how delicious this easy dish was. The only thing that could’ve have made it better was super fresh clams. Cockling at Goolwa Beach seems such an iconic activity for South Australian families only an hour’s drive away so with bucket and spade in hand and dog in tow, off we went straight to the source.
Goolwa lies 83km south of Adelaide and is in fact at the mouth of Murray River. A historic river town at the top of Coorong National Park, the word Goolwa actually means elbow in Aboriginal language. It used to be a thriving port back in the 1800s and today you could see traces of all that history. The beach car park is where the buzz begins, surfers getting in and out of their wetsuits, families getting their picnic gear together, big smiling faces returning from the beach with buckets of cockles. It actually wasn’t too busy today, we gathered our things and took a short walk to the beach. It turned out to be very windy that day but we managed to set up camp (before it got blown over with sand shortly).
The water was cold and the waves came in strong despite the hot sun. The wind almost bites through your bones but we as soon as we started digging our toes into that soft sand and finding our first few pipis, all that was forgotten. I never expected it to be that easy to find them. You could really start at about ankle high water because the waves come in but knee high gets you better results. Dig your feet in, use a spade, loosen the soil a little and as the waves come in, they wash the sand away revealing the treasured pipis.
Side note, it turns out our dog hates the beach. He hated the sand, the water, the wind, the waves, so much so we had to take turns to accompany him on the beach blanket. Perhaps it was too windy that day, I set up a mini fort for him to hide his face from the wind. Precious.
We found it easier to catch a good amount then head back to our mat to measure them. Please do observe the PIRSA guidelines to keep this as a sustainable activity for generations to come. We’re allowed 300 per person but we couldn’t eat that much anyway so once we had enough fun (and our dog got increasingly ratty), it was time to head home. We left the pipis in a bucket of cool water and took another bucket’s worth of seawater home. Make sure you take extra seawater home, it really helps.
I would advise against eating the pipis straight away unless you like a bit of grit in your meal so back at ours, I filtered the extra seawater we had through a paper towel and placed the cockles in there overnight to let them spit out the sand. The seawater that I brought them back in, I also filtered that through a paper towel and set aside. The next morning I change the filtered seawater over for more seawater. DO NOT use fresh water, it will kill them. We got back about 3pm and kept in two lots of seawater they were still alive at dinner time the next day. As we later found out, also very sand free. Fabulous!!
I made some chilli clams again of course but for a change I also made some Spaghetti Vongole with Cherry Tomatoes. An incredibly easy dish that allows the fresh pipis to shine. The flavour is so fantastic you really don’t need to do much to it. You can use any pasta, I had gluten free spaghetti on this occasion. This is my version that I made that day, hope you enjoy! I think I’ll definitely be cockling again next season.
- 300g dried spaghetti
- 700g pipis/clams
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- two handfuls of cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- chilli flakes optional
- salt and pepper
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Drain the pipis and quickly rinse under tap water and drain.
- In a separate pan with lid, heat the olive oil and sauté the minced garlic until fragrant, don’t let it burn.
- Next add the pipis along with cherry tomatoes, water and white wine then cover the pan with lid to let it steam for 3-5 minutes or until pipis have opened. Stir occasionally or just shake the pan.
- As soon as the pipis are open, add the cooked pasta and chopped parsley to the pan and mix well ensuring all the pasta is coated with sauce. Season with salt and pepper and let it cook for a further 2 minutes stirring frequently to coat pasta evenly. If you like spicy feel free to throw some chilli flakes in. Before serving, pick out any pipis that have not opened and discard them. Enjoy!