Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato. The name is synonymous with Portuguese cuisine.It is not a type of mollusc. Rather, it is a method of preparation, or a recipe.The dish, like so many other famous national dishes – Chateaubriand and Tournedos Rossini, was named in honour of a literary figure, the Nineteenth-century Portuguese poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato.
The English writer Arnold Bennett was so delighted with the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan omelette that chefs at the Savoy Hotel in London created for him, he insisted on it being made wherever he travelled. And at the Savoy, Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard British signature dish to this day. Its not surprising therefore that Bulhão Pato ironically became more famous for this clam recipe that the Portuguese named after him than for his poetry.
It's a classic that can be found all over Portugal.It is simple, quick, and easy to make at home and so so so delicious.Imagine you're sitting in a beach bar on a beautiful coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You have sand in your toes, a caipirinha in your hand, you can smell the salt and you can taste the sea.
Order clams Bulhão Pato at an ocean-side restaurant and you will understand why Bulhão Pato thought they were pure poetry.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
A perfectly light supper for two, or a seriously impressive starter for four
2 kg clams pre-washed clams*
6 fat cloves garlic peeled but kept whole
a few tablespoons of olive oil
250ml ( 1/2 pint ) water
125 ml lemon juice
glass of white wine
salt and pepper
Large handful of chopped fresh coentros (coriander)*
Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and let the garlic take colour in it.Add the water,lemon juice and wine followed by the washed clams.Season with a little pepper and add the coriander. Keep on a high heat a with a lid,shaking the pan vigorously until the clams are open (3-5 minutes).Bring to the table with a basket of crusty white bread to mop up the wonderful juices that they have been steeped in.
*Prepare the clams well in advance.They need to stand in salted water for 2-3 hours.After a first wash use 5-6 tablespoons of salt for each 1.2 litres (2 pints) of water for soaking. After soaking wash again in plentiful water to remove all the sand the clams have discharged.
*Coentros(coriander) is well known as an ingredient in Asian and Mexican cuisines, but it's also a staple in Portuguese cooking.