Laverbread and Cockle Risotto

Laver is an edible seaweed and when picked laver is purple in colour but turns green when cooked. In Japan laver is dried into sheets and is known as nori. In Wales laver is boiled to make a green puree which is known as laverbread. Mixed with oatmeal and fried in bacon fat the laverbread makes laver cakes. Laverbread combined with sharp orange juice creates a tasty sauce which is served with fish and Welsh lamb or mutton.

This dish is a culinary mixture of Italian and Welsh ingredients brought together to create a tasty and satisfying dish.

Portions: 4 - 6 Portion

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking: 40 minutes

Ingredients

Cockles

  • 1kg live cockles (clams can be used as a subsitute)
  • 375ml white wine

Risotto

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 rashers streaky bacon (rindless), diced
  • 1 leek (white only), finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1 litre fish, chicken or vegetable stock (boiling)
  • 100g fresh or canned laverbread
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp basil, shredded
  • 100g parmesan grated
  • 3 tbsp creme fraiche or 100g butter
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

  • 50g toasted pine nuts
  • 4-6 slices thin streaky bacon (rindless), cooked until crisp (optional)
  • parmesan shavings

Method

  1. Cockles: Scrub and wash the cockles, if any of the shells are open and won't close after giving them a strong tap discard them. Place the cockles in a large saucepan with the white wine. Cover the pan and place it over a moderate-high heat. Cook the cockles until they have opened (around 4-5 minutes). Any cockles that don't open discard. Place the opened cockles in a bowl and strain the cooking liquid reserving it for the risotto. Allow the cockles to cool slightly then remove two thirds of them from their shells. Set the cockles aside while you prepare the risotto (if preparing them in advance cover them and refrigerate them until ready to reheat).
  2. Risotto: Place a large saucepan with the olive oil over a moderate heat, add the bacon and cook for 1 minute until just cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the leek and garlic to the pan, sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the rice to the pan and mix it so that it is coated by the oil, cook for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved cockle cooking stock and allow it to simmer until absorbed. Now stir in a couple of ladles of boiling stock, stir with a wooden spoon until the stock is absorbed. Keep on adding ladles of stock until all the stock is absorbed into the rice. The rice should be moist and tender, with a little bite (not mush). Stir in the laverbread and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked cockles, bacon, plum tomatoes, parsley and basil. Cook the risotto for a few minutes so that the cockles are heated through. Gradually mix in the parmesan then butter until melted and well combined. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season to taste. Serve at once.
  3. To Serve: Spoon the risotto into warm serving bowls. Scatter over the pine nuts and parmesan shavings. Garnish with a crisp bacon rasher (optional). Serve.