Cockles: what are they? And how to cook it?

From cooking, baking, stir-frying to grilling

If you love clams and oysters, you’ll definitely love cockles too. You can eat these molluscs in the same way as mussels. The preparation of cockles is also super simple.

In addition, you even have a choice of several preparation methods. Keep reading to find out exactly what these shellfish are and how to prepare cockles.

Table of contents

Chapter 1

What are cockles?

A cockle is a bivalve mollusc that lives in the sea. These shellfish are also called edible heart mussels or edible cockles.

You can consider a cockle as the less popular sibling of the oyster and mussel. Despite the fact that this animal is less well known, it is a great delicacy in a small shell.

This shell grows up to 6 centimetres long and 5 centimetres high. The shell is thick, ribbed and generally has a white, tan or brown colour. However, when it comes to a young cockle, the shell has a spot pattern on top.

A cockle can live for about 10 years. This shellfish mainly reproduces in July and August. It is mainly found in sand that is not too muddy or too fine and in areas with moderate currents.

The cockle is a filter feeder. It lives on plankton and other food that are floating in the water.

Cockles season

This mollusc is actually available all year round, but there is a higher availability between June and November.

Chapter 2

Where do cockles originate?

Cockles are mainly found in the Wadden Sea in Europe, where they are caught in abundance. This is especially the case in the summer months. Cockles can also be found in the North Sea.

During extreme cold winter periods the cockle mortality is very high. As a result, there is a poor supply of these tasty molluscs during these periods.

Chapter 3

The taste

Cockles have lean meat that is very flavourful. The taste of fresh cockle is described as tasty and summery. This taste enhances very well in combination with pasta and fresh parsley. You can also add white wine, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice.

Chapter 4

Are cockles healthy?

Cockles are small, contain a relatively large amount of meat and are also healthy. Cockles are one of the best sources of vitamin B12. These shellfish are also packed with other nutrients, including potassium, iron, selenium, vitamin C and B vitamins. Because of this, cockles are nutritious molluscs.

Chapter 5

How to cook cockles?

Cockles can be prepared in different ways. You can cook, fry, stir-fry and even grill cockles on the barbecue. In addition, you can even eat them raw and alive. Therefore you can try different preparation methods.

You may be wondering how many cockles you can prepare per person. In general, it is recommended to prepare 100 to 175 grams of cockles, including the shells, per person. This comes down to five to nine cockles per person.

Cockles are bought alive after which you preferably prepare them immediately. If you choose not to prepare the cockles immediately, you can store the fresh cockles. You store the cockles in a dark place for about seven to ten days. The temperature of this place should not exceed 3 °C.

Do you wish to store them longer? Then you can freeze the cockles. It is important that you clean them first and then place them in a vacuum package. Frozen dirty cockles can become inedible. However, if you clean them properly and then vacuum freeze them, the cockles can still be used after a maximum of 20 days.

Cleaning cockles

Because cockles burrow themselves into sand, it is important to wash thoroughly. Fortunately, cleaning cockles is very easy. Find out how to clean cockles here.

First you rinse the shellfish with salt water. Then place them in a pan with cold water and plenty of salt. Thereafter you leave this pan for quite some time. You then change the water and leave the cockles in the water again. This ensures that the shellfish is completely discarded of sand.

While cleaning fresh cockles, you should also check whether there are any open shells. If you come across an open shell, tap the shell slightly. If the shell closes, you may continue cooking the cockle. If the shell remains open or if it is broken, it is best to throw this cockle away.

Boiling

After you have cleaned the cockles, you can cook them. This is one of the simplest preparation methods. Like mussels, you cook cockles in a large pot. How long should you actually cook cockles? You can read that in the basic recipe below:

  1. First you clean the cockles thoroughly.
  2. After this you pour a glass of white wine with fresh water in a large pot.
  3. You can optionally add freshly cut vegetables.
  4. Then add spices to the water.
  5. You now add the cockles and bring it all to a boil.
  6. Let the cockles cook for about 5 minutes.
  7. After this, drain the cockles over a colander.
  8. Throw away cockles that do not open.

Pan-frying

When you think of preparing cockles, baking may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, these shellfish can also be fried:

  1. First clean the cockles thoroughly.
  2. Then dry them well to prevent splattering during baking as much as possible.
  3. Heat up a pan with oil.
  4. When the oil is hot, add garlic and onions.
  5. Stir the garlic and onions in the pan until they are soft but not coloured.
  6. After this, if desired, stir in other types of meat such as ham or sausage.
  7. You close the pan and let it simmer on a low fire while shaking the pan from time to time.
  8. Then add the cockles and sprinkle it with spices.
  9. You cover the pan again and let it simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes.
  10. If the shells are open, the cockles are cooked.
Wok

Stir-frying

The stir-frying of cockles takes place almost the same way as if you fry them. When stir-frying, use oriental seasonings and heat the cockles over a high heat to take the dish to the next level.

Grilling

Cockles on the BBQ are very delicious. But how can you actually grill cockles on the BBQ? This preparation does not have to be difficult either:

  1. First you clean the cockles thoroughly.
  2. After this you light up the barbecue. A direct setup on a medium fire is best.
  3. If desired, you can add a block of smoking wood.
  4. After this, place a wide (paella) pan on the grid, in which you melt the butter. You can use a foil tray instead of the wide pan if desired.
  5. When the butter has melted, add garlic.
  6. When the garlic is cooked, but not brown, add the cockles. If desired, you can then cover the pan or foil tray with a piece of aluminium foil.
  7. The cockles are cooked within about 5 minutes. When the cockles are cooked, the shells will be open.
  8. Finish the dish by squeezing a lemon over the pan and sprinkling parsley or other herbs over the cockles.

Chapter 6

Recipe: Spaghetti alle vongole

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

A delicious Italian pasta dish with clams or cockles.
Prep time10 minutes
Cooking time15 minutes
Servings: 4 persons
Author: Cultiviz
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Ingredients

  • 300 grams spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ red pepper if you like your food spicy
  • 250 grams cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large tbsp tomato puree
  • 500 grams clams
  • 1 dl white wine
  • 2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • Pepper freshly ground
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Rinse the vongole under cold running water for about 10 minutes, so that any sand can be rinsed out. Discard any vongole that are broken or left open. Drain the vongole in a sieve.
  • Bring water to a boil in a large pan and add a good pinch of salt. Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the cooking time on the package. Then drain it well.
  • Meanwhile, clean the garlic and cut it into thin slices.
  • Cut the red pepper into slices as well.
  • In a frying pan, fry the garlic with the red pepper in a dash of olive oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and fry them until they burst.
  • Add the tomato puree and let it fry for another 2 minutes.
  • Increase the heat, add the drained clams and shake the pan a few times.
  • Deglaze with the white wine and immediately cover the pan with a lid. Let it simmer while covered for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and see if all the shells are open. Otherwise let it simmer for a while. If any clams have not yet opened, remove them and discard them.
  • Add the drained spaghetti and parsley, toss this well and season it generously with freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt if desired.
  • Arrange the spaghetti with the vongole in deep plates and spoon over the cherry tomatoes and the cooking juices.

Chapter 7

All recipes

Looking for more inspiration? Then see below more recipes with halibut. Or check our fish recipes for even more inspiration.

Spaghetti alle vongole

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