Christmas is all about food that’s meant for sharing. When friends come over and sit around to pass the day, you’ve got several hungry mouths to feed and times like these, I want to impress, but take very little effort to do so. A roast will take an hour to make tops, and then there’s the constant running up to the oven to brush the chook with fat so it won’t dry out, crisp up, cook evenly and all that. Seafood cooks quickly and with a little bit of pre-prep you can achieve quite a lot in advance.
Take my one pot bowl of Clams and black rice for instance. If most of my clams are picked and cleaned beforehand and my black rice is soaked, I’m ready to go into lunch guns blazing. This one pot delight brings together sweet clam liquor with the almost risotto-ish stickiness of organic black rice. Add to this tomatoes, stock, a good port wine and tons of green parsley to finish and you’ll have some very happy customers.
My second dish of squid steamed on banana leaves adds that fancy but traditional touch to plain ol’ lunchtime. Everyone is served a quenelle of sambal spiked with shrimp paste, lime, soy and white rice and are encouraged to use their fingers to mix everything together. Meal prep for this can be sorted within 15 minutes but the results are super gratifying.
Clams With Black Rice Recipe:
Clams And Black Rice One Pot
Ladle out portions of this hearty one pot supper of clams and black rice into fancy bowls and pass down the table for everyone to tuck into. A small plate to chuck the clam shells and a soup spoon are optional.
Clams 1 kg
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Butter 1 tbsp
Onion 1 large, finely chopped
Garlic 4 cloves, peeled
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Tomato paste 1 tbsp, made from reducing 1/2 tetra pack of tomato puree or use just the puree
Chicken stock 3 cups, made from a bouillon cube is fine here too
Port wine 1/4 cup
Black rice 150g, soaked overnight or for 6 hours at least
Parsley 3 tbsp, flat-leaf preferably
Salt and pepper
Wash and scrub the clams and soak them in cold water for an hour at least. This is to get any residual sand out of them. If there are any open clams, don’t use them. Pick through them to discard any damaged ones. Keep them on ice till it is time to use them.
In a large pasta pot, heat the olive oil and butter together. Add in the finely chopped onion and let it saute for a minute. Grate in the garlic over the pot and saute for another minute. Add in the red chilli powder, then stir in the tomato paste or puree and give it a good toss till heated through. Next, add in the stock water and port wine, a few pinches of salt and bring it up to a boil.
When everything is boiling merrily, add in the soaked black rice, give it all a toss and let it simmer by reducing the heat, lid-off for about 15 minutes or as instructed on your packet of black rice.
Once the rice is almost done, add in the clams, toss everything once, put a lid on and with the pot still on a rolling boil, let the clams sit in the mixture for 4-5 minutes. Take the lid off and check the clams to see if they have all opened prodding at them to check. If any clams remain sealed shut, discard them. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Remember that the stock cube as well as the clams will impart some salt to the final dish. Finish with the chopped parsley.
Sambal Squid Steamed In Banana Leaves recipe:
Sambal Squid Steamed In Banana Leaves
Since this dish is all about the sambal, I suggest frying this paste rather very well. Flattening the sambal out with a spatula as it cooks, then bringing to all back together in the pan helps the paste cook evenly and quickly.
Onions 3, medium-sized, chopped, plus extra chopped lengthwise
Garlic 6 cloves
Fresh turmeric 5 cm, chopped
Lemongrass 3, only white bits chopped
Shrimp paste 1 tbsp
Fresh Red chillies 5-7 (I used a sweeter not as spicy version but if all you have are bird’s eye, use only 3-4)
Vegetable oil 1/4 cup
Tamarind concentrate 2 tbsp from a golf-ball sized piece of tamarind
Sugar 1 tbsp or an equal amount of gur
Squid 1 kilo, cleaned by pulling apart their tentacles from their heads, removing ink sacs and rinsing them again, then slicing the heads into rings. You can also ask your fishmonger to do this.
Banana leaves 3-4
Limes 3, two quartered and one juiced
Soy Sauce 1/3 cup, Kikkoman preferably
Cooked White rice to serve
In a mixer grinder, blitz together the onions, garlic, turmeric, the white parts of the lemongrass, shrimp paste, red chillies together till it is a fine paste.
In a frying pan or a kadai, heat the oil till hot and add the paste, frying and stirring it constantly for 5 minutes flattening it out and bringing it together again. Add to this mixture the tamarind concentrate, salt and sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Over medium heat, continue to cook this for 5 more minutes till slightly reduced. Divide this mixture into half, reserving half for marinating the squid.
Stir the squid with the sambal. Cut per person portion sizes of banana leaf and place over the squid mixed together with the sambal. Top with some thinly sliced onions and place in a makeshift steamer using a colander set over a pot of simmering water underneath. Place the banana leaf and cover and steam for 5 minutes till squid is cooked. Be careful not to overcook the squid as it can get chewy and rubbery.
You can also cook this in a nonstick frying pan greased with a teensy bit of oil and heated over a medium-high flame. Simply place the banana leaf inside the pan and cover and cook for 3 minutes exactly. Serve these parcels with reserved sambal, a piece of quartered lime, cooked rice, and a dipping mixture of soy sauce and lime juice from one lime. Top with coriander sprigs and serve with rice.
To eat, mix together squid, rice and a little bit of the sambal. Top with soy sauce, squeeze over lime juice and eat.