Basil spätzle in saffron broth with clams, cockles and mussels
- Online only
- Serves 6
- Hands-on time 1 hour 30 min, simmering 20 min plus chilling
Yotam Ottolenghi’s comforting spätzle recipe is made with spinach and basil gnocchi-like dumplings and served in a rich seafood broth.
- 22.1g (3.8g saturated)
- 33.2g (7.1g sugars)
For the spätzle
- 130g baby spinach
- 40g basil leaves
- 200g plain flour, sifted
- 2 medium free-range eggs
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- 200ml whole milk
For the gremolata
- 30g fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Finely grated zest 1 large lemon
- 75ml olive oil
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
For the seafood broth
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large banana shallots, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 celery sticks, finely diced
- 450ml dry vermouth
- 300ml dry white wine
- 300g clams, rinsed very well under running cold water
- 250g cockles, rinsed very well under running cold water
- 300g mussels, beards removed, shell scrubbed, rinsed very well under running cold water
- ¼ tsp saffron threads
- 4 medium tomatoes, quartered, seeds removed and flesh cut into 2cm cubes
- 250ml fresh chicken stock
- 4 red mullet fillets, each fillet cut into 3 pieces 4cm x 5cm
- Bring a medium pan of water to the boil and add the spinach and basil. Blanch for 30 seconds, then drain in a colander. Refresh under cold water and squeeze in a clean tea towel or clean J-cloth to remove excess water. Finely chop and set aside.
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and nutmeg, along with 2 tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper. Slowly whisk the ingredients together as you pour in the milk, continuously whisking to form a smooth batter. Stir in the basil and spinach and leave in the fridge for an hour to thicken. Put all the ingredients for the gremolata in a small bowl, with 1/4 tsp salt and a grind of black pepper. Mix well and set aside.
- To cook the spätzle, fill a large bowl with iced water and bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Using a spatula, spread the batter out on a chopping board – a smooth wooden board is perfect – to form a square, roughly 15cm wide and 5mm thick. Perch the chopping board on the edge of the saucepan, lifting it up at a 45 degree angle, then, using the spatula or a long knife, quickly push the batter in small ribbons about 4 cm long x 1cm wide, into softly boiling water, cutting them with the spatula as you do. Make sure the water is not too rapidly boiling as this will cause the spätzle to break up. You will need to do this in two or three batches, so that you do not overcrowd the pan. Cook for 1 minute, until the spätzle float to the top of the water, then, using a slotted spoon, lift them out of the boiling water and plunge them straight into the ice-cold water. Repeat with the remaining mixture before draining the spätzle and then setting them all aside on a clean tea towel to absorb any excess water. See food team tip.
- For the broth, put the oil into a large saucepan, for which you have a lid, and place on a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice, until starting to soften. Add the celery and cook for another minute. Increase the heat, pour over the vermouth and wine and cook for 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the clams, cockles and mussels, cover the pan and cook for 2-4 minutes, until the shells are open (throw away any that fail to do so). Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the shellfish into a colander. Set aside and, when cool enough to handle, remove the shells of two-thirds of the shellfish, keeping the remaining third intact. Keeping just some in their shells like this looks good when serving, but they’ll take up too much space in the bowl if they’re all in their shells.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the saffron, tomatoes, stock and red mullet, along with 1/2 tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper. Cover and cook for another 2 minutes, until the fish is almost cooked. Add the spätzle and half the gremolata, stir gently and simmer for 2 more minutes.
- Divide most of the shellfish between shallow bowls and spoon the spätzle, red mullet and hot broth on top. Finish with the remaining shellfish and serve at once, with the remaining gremolata spooned over.
Don’t worry if your spätzle don’t look perfect – they will taste amazing whatever the shape. Prepare all your ingredients before the last assembly stages – that will make it easier to bring the dish together.
Yotam’s tips: The spätzle by themselves, without the broth, are wonderful. Once you’ve made them, fry in a pan before serving with some burnt butter drizzled on top: melt about 100g butter over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until it starts to foam, turn a light brown colour and begin to smell nutty.
There are different ways to produce the spätzle ribbons: some pass the batter through a large slotted spoon or metal colander into the water, others drip it in with 2 teaspoons. Our chopping board method is, we think, the most straightforward. Experiment each time you make it, though. The colander-pushers are pretty firm in their belief that their method is the failsafe one.
Make the dough up to 48 hours in advance and keep covered in the fridge until ready to use. Prepare the gremolata up to 12 hours in advance and keep covered in the fridge.
Spätzle are a type of soft egg noodle or dumpling popular in southern Germany and Austria.
The light grapefruit note and twist of white pepper in an Austrian grüner veltliner make it a hit with this dish.
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