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Spaghetti, sea shells and vegetables recipe of Highland Park Wild Food


Cooking time
30 minutes
Prep time
10 minutes & up to 2 hours to 'purge' the cockles
2 people

Armed with a bucket and rakes, Genevieve Taylor and Andrew Appleby headed for St Peter’s Pool at low tide for a spot of coastal foraging. Andrew describes cockles from Orkney as sweet, fresh and ‘just wonderful’ and, over an open wood fire, Genevieve transformed their sandy harvest into a celebration of unexpected flavour contrasts. Steamed to sweet and succulent perfection over a bed of foraged seaweed, the cockles are tossed with spaghetti, caramelised onions and brown butter infused with Highland Park 12 Year Old. According to Andrew, the flavours are ‘a revelation’!


1 kg cockles
1 tablespoon salt
A few good handfuls of angel hair or bladderwrack seaweed, fresh and damp (cavolo nero stems are a good alternative)
125g Orkney butter (or good quality salted butter)
I large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste
75ml Highland Park 12 Year Old
150g spaghetti
A couple of handfuls (about 75g) wild watercress
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To serve

Orkney Bere Bannock (or a crumbly, malty loaf)


A fire table with grill surfaces
A colander
A fire-proof frying pan and a large fire-proof pan – no plastic or wooden handles, and NOT non-stick!
Cloche for smoking – an old metal bowl works fine


1. First, prepare the cockles by tipping them into a colander and rinsing under cold running water. Pick through and discard any that don’t close up when you tap them – they should be alive! Add the rinsed cockles to a bowl and cover with cold water, stirring through a tablespoon of salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to 2 hours to allow the cockles to purge any sand or mud and then rinse again under fresh running water. The cockles are now ready to cook!

2. Light a wood fire or charcoal barbecue. Once it’s ready to cook on, set your fire-proof frying pan a little off to the side of the fire so that it gets a medium heat. Drop in the butter and allow it to melt gently before adding the chopped onion and a generous pinch of sea salt. Leave the onion to soften and slowly caramelise – this should take a generous 30 minutes, depending on the level of heat – it’s best not to rush onions, but move the pan further away from the heat if they colour too fast.

3. Once the onions are well on their way to softening, set a large pan of salted water directly over the fire. Cover with a lid and let it come to a rolling boil and add the spaghetti.

4. Rinse and shake off the angel hair or bladderwrack (or cavolo nero) and pile across the grill bars, directly over the fire. Scatter the cockles on top and cover with a cloche to help to trap the steam. (If you’re grilling with charcoal, you’ll need to add a little wood to create the smoke – choose fist-sized chunks rather than chips, and add one or two to your fire.) Allow the cockles to steam until they open, using tongs to move them about so they get even access to the heat. This may take around 15 minutes, depending on the heat.

5. While the cockles are cooking, it’s time to make the sauce. Once the onions are soft and lightly caramelised, add the garlic and stir briefly before sliding the pan over a higher heat. Allow the butter and onions to take on a little more colour then pour in the whisky and season generously with black pepper. Allow to bubble away and reduce over a high heat for a few minutes until syrupy, then slide the pan further from the heat to keep warm until the spaghetti and cockles are ready.

6. Using tongs, lift the cooked spaghetti into the pan of onions and whisky butter. Allow some of the cooking water to come with it as this will allow the sauce to emulsify. Scatter over the wild watercress and toss together with tongs to mix.

7. When the cockles are all open, use the tongs to scoop them up and add to the pasta and sauce in the pan. Toss together, add in a few strands of seaweed or cavolo nero, and serve with Bere Bannock or crumbly, malty bread to dip in the juices. Enjoy!

Pairs with

Highland Park 12 Year Old bottle - Urnes design

12 Year Old

ABV : 40% | Volume: 700ml

Spicy and well-rounded. Packed with the flavours of sun-kissed Seville oranges and richly spiced fruitcake, with hints of molten heather honey lingering sweetly in light Orcadian peat smoke.

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