Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Surviving Lenten fasting and abstinence II

Now I know some people are determined to keep eating meat through this Lent lest they be seen to be giving aid to claims that Australia's (methane emitting) cows are the greatest threat to global warming our country produces (see the combox from yesterday. Yeah right Peter, good excuse!), but truly abstinence from meat during this season is an ancient tradition!

But just to encourage the slackers, I won't give another hard core vegetarian recipe today, but a gentler option! Because traditionally, Catholics did of course eat fish and seafood through Lent. Medieval abbeys stocked up their fishponds with all sorts of weird and wonderful fish and crustaceans, eating things like eel by the bucketload. And I can't help feeling a twinge of regret for the long gone days my mother recalls, when being poor meant being sent, as very young child, with a billy can to the docks of Hobart for a fill-up of scallops, with her mother hoping that the cuteness factor would get a few extras tossed in the top!

Unfortunately seafood is generally pretty expensive these days.

Still, leaving aside tuna casseroles and the like for the moment, there are some options that aren't too pricey at least for an occasional treat to give you a break from those lentils!

Frozen mussel meat (at around $10-15 kg) is reasonably cost effective, since nothing goes to waste and you don't need much of it to make a good pasta sauce (based around tomatoes for example), or to toss into a stir fry. Similarly, a 290g can of baby clams (vongole) sells at my local supermarket for around $2, and can make a sauce for pasta that will serve three to four people. And both cockles (clams) and mussels are very good ways of getting an iron boost when you need one!

So today's recipe is for clam sauce with pasta:

1. Cook pasta. While it is boiling, gently fry onion, garlic, a small sprig of thyme (basil or oregano work as alternatives) in olive oil. Good optional extras are a little red pepper and/or a few pieces of anchovy.

2. Add the clams, 1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine (the alcohol boils off so this is fine for kids), ground pepper and chopped parsley. Simmer for a minute or two, then serve.

Some versions then add cream to this, but personally I think that's overkill.

And though its probably sacrilege to the Italians, a little Parmesan does go quite well...

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