This is Portugal. This is sunshine and nights out. This is sticky garlic, salty clams and the blackest of pigs.
Jamie’s parents live in Portugal. We don’t go as often as we like, but when we do we have to eat this dish. The best place to get it is O Lagar. It is sublime. We therefore try and recreate it as often as we can, as it not only transports us back to the sunny and fertile hills, but it’s very tasty in one’s belly.
The Algarve can be a funny old place though. There are a lot of ex-pats and the region can seem soulless at times to me. It’s as though it’s been eaten up by tourists and there’s no real Portugal left. That’s not true of course – only at the country clubs and golf courses is that the case. There is something unsettling about one minute driving past million pound villas and the next past emaciated horses drawing carriages.
There is another side to the Algarve though. We get to see this as Jamie parents’ neighbours are incredibly welcoming, and let us see how people really live, cook for us the most amazing meals, and really enjoy showing us this side of Portugal. The Portuguese are extraordinarily friendly. The wild flowers in May are beautiful. And then there’s the black pig. What a beast! The Alentejano (or the black Iberian pig) has the most delicious of flesh. And this dish really shows it off. The clams are abundant, and although back-breaking to collect, are well worth the feast that they provide.
To prepare the clams:
I asked the fishmonger the best way to keep the clams before I needed to cook them, and he said just keep them moist, but not in water – so a damp bit of kitchen paper would be ideal. Clams are so much easier to prepare than mussels, as they generally don’t have beards. All you do is give them a bit of a rinse under running water, and throw out any that are open and don’t shut when tapped, as with mussels.
Pork & Clams – Serves 2
Marinade the pork for 3 to 4 hours in the following:
1 tspn paprika
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Glug of olive oil
Glug of sherry
1 tspn red wine vinegar
The Dish Itself
1 pork tenderloin, cut into chunks (no Iberian pig for me but hey ho)
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
In a wide saucepan, brown the pork in butter and olive oil. You want the meat to be well browned, as this will make the dish deliciously sticky and sweet. Next add the chilli, and fry for a minute or so and then add the garlic, a good glug of sherry and a bay leaf. Then place in a pre-heated oven at 180c lid on, and cook for about twenty minutes. You basically want the garlic to roast, but don’t want the meat to dry out. This can also be done on the hob, but the garlic definitely takes on a sweeter and stickier complexion by being roasted.
Then remove pan from oven, and another glug of sherry, a dash of water, and on a high heat add the clams. Lid on. Cook until the shells are open (only about 2 to 3 minutes). Throw in the parsley and squeeze in the lemon. You’re good to go – yummo.