The beach is one of the best places to forage, at the correct time of the year, as you can go home with easily a full meal or two in hand and your time to gather is considerably less than in a woodland or hedgerow. Plus the salty air really helps give your hair some wondrous volume!
Cockle beds are easy to spot and quick to gather. Check out the estuary at low tide and look for lots of little holes in the sand where oyster catchers and other sea birds have been digging. It’s highly likely that is for the same prey as you, so run your fingers through the first inch or so of sand. Often a couple will be above the sand, otherwise they don’t live much below the first two inches. Populations can be quite dense and I generally get enough for a meal in about two square meters. I’d advise only taking the largest and not taking more than you need – seafood always tastes best on the day you catch.
Cockles (15 per person is a decent amount)
Salt Water (to purge)
Before cooking your cockles you need to purge them. I’d advise one tablespoon of sea salt per pint of water and leave for two hours, then change the water, and leave for another two minimum. This gets rid of the sand they’ve sooked up. Alternatively use seawater you’ve taken home – pass through a cheesecloth first to remove any debris. You don’t need to put them in the fridge during this process as they are still alive however don’t purge for too long as the oxygen in the water will deplete and they will die.
Into a frying pan mix 3 tablespoons of elderberry vinegar with enough water to fill the pan by about 1cm.
Turn onto a medium heat until it starts to simmer gently and reduce the heat.
Add the cockles until cooked – when ready they will pop open. Before adding any cockles that won’t completely close discard**.
In a separate pan reduce some elderberry vinegar on a high heat until thick and sticky to make a glaze.
Plate up, drizzling the glaze over the cockles and sprinkling the scurvy grass in between
For true hipster kudos you should serve on a rock you have taken from the beach alongside a tiny bucket to dispose the empty shells