Thursday, 17 September 2015

Tuatua and Spaghetti

This weekend some good friends of ours from Rotorua rented a bach at Ohope Beach; Olga is a serious foodie and so I was really excited when she and Paul invited us for dinner. We had gorgeous burritos with a fresh lime-drenched avocado salsa and refried beans – yummy summer food! While we were there the tide was all the way out, so we decided to harvest some tuatua off the surf beach.

People often confuse tuatua and pipi – but it is easy to tell the difference even before you harvest one; tuatua live on the surf beach and pipi usually live in the habour or estuary. If you are given some tuatua or pipi and you can’t tell which one you have, the pipi has a solid white, elongated symmetrical shell with the apex at the middle; it is covered by a thin yellow coating. The tuatua has an asymmetrical shell, with an off-centre hinge.

Both pipi and tuatua are endemic to New Zealand; that means that here is the only place in the world you will find them. They have very little in the way of nutritional value, with a tiny bit of vitamin C and iron (2% and 7% 

respectively of our RDI).  They are low in calories and cholesterol, but seriously high in flavour!

Pipi and Tui are easy to harvest. We always go at full low tide and start feeling around with our toes at around knee depth. I know people who take them from the exposed sand, but that is too messy for me; I like them to be clean. Pipi are good to eat straight from the shell on the day you harvest them; if we are going to keep them for the next day we always take a container for sea water so they stay alive and keep their flavour. Tuatua are always filled with sand and so we never eat them on the first day; keep them in salt water overnight and they are perfect the next day. Both are delicious raw or cooked. Remember you are only allowed to harvest 150 per person, per day of either pipi or tuatua. There are always MPI fishery officers out and about and they will count every shellfish you harvest.

At the moment there are exclusion zones for harvesting shellfish around our coastline. Like most summers, this year we are again hit with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). The exclusion zone currently runs from the Whakatane Heads, all the way along the coast to Waihi Beach, and up the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula to Opito Bay.  All harbours, estuaries and islands along this coastline are included in the warning. The shellfish is tested weekly, so please check before harvesting mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops, catseyes, pupu and kina.
The recipe I am sharing with you today works with pretty much all seafood. It is a very traditional Italian recipe made for clams. I am sharing my kiwi version with you today.
Kia makona, Mawera Karetai x

Spaghetti Alle Vongole
2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
3 spring onions, sliced in to rounds, including tops
3 large tomato, peeled, deseeded and finely diced
(cherry tomatoes are fine, too)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/3 cup olive oil
45 pipi or tuatua in the shell
30 pipi or tuatua out of the shell and their juice
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pack of dried spaghetti or linguine
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large pan over medium heat, warm the garlic and spring onion in the olive oil until the garlic is starting to colour, about 1 minute.

Add the shellfish, shellfish juice, tomato and wine. Cover and simmer over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally until all the clams open.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the clam sauce and parsley and toss well. Check for seasoning – add salt and pepper as required. Serve immediately with parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

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