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Pipis: a kiwi summer tradition

Category: Seafood,Recipes  |  Post by: Andrea Wong
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After a long and busy year, it was great to get out of the city for a few days. Really, it was great to just get away from the house, which is in the middle of renovations. Mr H and I headed up north to the little area of Ruakaka, about 35 minutes from Whangarei with the Busy Bee family.

Little did I know, that Ruakaka is right next to Marsden Point. Holidaying by an oil refinery doesn't sound so nice but it's far enough away that you can forget that its there. Despite the refinery, the water is fairly clear, there's plenty of shellfish just under the sand when you dig your toes in and you can see fish swimming in the breaking waves. It's kind of like the Takapuna Beach that I remember from my childhood.

Ruakaka Beach

Master Busy Bee, a budding entomologist (he loves spiders and other creepy crawlies) or marine biologist busied himself finding lots of interesting shells. These cats eyes were safely returned to the sand after careful inspection.

Examining catseyes at Marsden Bay

The bach that we rented was wonderfully spacious - perfect for summer holidays and simple bbq dinner meals out on the deck, which is about all that we could manage after long days swimming and relaxing at the beach! Outside the front door was a big grassy area that is shared with the bach next door, where the kids to played with the neighbour's kids.

The neighbours had a few pipis to spare and they kindly shared them with us. As we were leaving the next day, we packed them snugly in a chilly bin with some water to keep them alive and headed home.

Pipis from the neighbours

Pipis will continue to live a couple of days after collection if you look after them. Put them in a bucket or chilly bin with lots of sea water, put it in the shade overnight and they will start spitting out the sand. I've read that if you put in a handful of bran or rolled oats, they start eating this and spit out the sand too. I haven't tried this, so would be interested to hear if you have. Change the water 1-2 times a day, fresh water is fine if you're away from the beach like we were but they do start dying after a couple of days so you need to eat them promptly!

The pipis that we had, had bits of sea weed on them so they needed to be scrubbed well. But even if your pipis were completely submerged in the sand, it's a good idea to give them a once over with scrubbing brush.

Scrub them clean

Even though I don't eat much shellfish, I knew that I wanted to do something a little different with these pipis. So with my mind swirling with the memories of watching lots of MasterChef and Top Chef, three different sauces were made: Pipis three ways, as they would say on tv.

All three sauces were quick and easy to cook, with just a few minutes to prepare the ingredients (the mis en place, as they say) was all that was required. Thai, Kiwi and Spanish were the flavours of the day so a bit of finely chopped tomato, onion and garlic, along with some herbs and Thai flavours and it was all ready to go.

Make all three styles and serve with some crusty bread for a d'lish summery lunch for two. Luckily Mum popped over just in time to help me eat the pipis, good timing Mum!

Pipi tips
  • Take only as many as you can eat in a couple of days. There is a limit of 50 in the Auckland area, 150 elsewhere in New Zealand but I believe in taking only what you will eat yourself.
  •  Keep the pipis in a bucket of sea water and put in the shade overnight (try adding a handful of rolled oats or bran). The pipis will slowly spit out the sand inside them. Change the water 1-2 times a day.
  • Use fresh water if you can't use sea water.
  • Discard any pipis that have opened before cooking. These ones are dead and aren't safe to eat. Test by tapping them on their shell if you're unsure. If they are alive, the shell will close.
  • Scrub the pips before cooking.
  • After cooking, chuck out any pipis that haven't opened, these were dead before cooking and aren't safe to eat.

Get everything ready before starting to cook

Pipis three ways: Spanish

Pipis with a tomato, smoked paprika and saffron sauce

Serves 2

Spanish pipis

Ingredients

1 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
12 pipis, soaked in a bucket of water overnight to get rid of the sand and scrubbed
2 ripe tomatoes, the seeds removed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
6 saffron threads
1/4 c white wine
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1/2 a finely chopped fresh chilli, to taste
a handful of parsley and fennel leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions
  1. Over a medium heat, put the oil in a medium sized pot and add the garlic and onion. Lightly sauteé until the onions become slightly translucent and turn the heat up to medium high
  2. Add the tomatoes and stir for a minute then add the pipis
  3. Stir the pipis until they start to open
  4. Add the wine, paprika and saffron and cook for a further 2 minutes
  5. Chuck out any pipis that haven't opened as they were dead before cooking and shouldn't be eaten
  6. Sprinkle the parsley and fennel leaves over the pipis and add the lemon juice

Serve in a bowl and top with a bit more parsley and fennel leaves and drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil.

Pipis three ways: Kiwi

Pipis with a white wine and cream sauce

Serves 2

Kiwi pipis - white wine and cream

Ingredients

1 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
12 pipis, soaked in a bucket of water overnight to get rid of the sand and scrubbed
1/3 c white wine
1/4 c cream
a handful of parsley and fennel leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions
  1. Over a medium heat, put the oil in a medium sized pot and add the garlic and onion. Lightly sauteé until the onions become slightly translucent and turn the heat up to medium high
  2. Add the pipis and stir until they start to open
  3. Add the wine and cook for a further 2 minutes then add the cream
  4. Chuck out any pipis that haven't opened as they were dead before cooking and shouldn't be eaten
  5. Sprinkle the parsley and fennel leaves over the pipis and add the lemon juice.
Serve in a bowl and top with a bit more parsley and fennel leaves.

Pipis three ways: Thai

Pipis with curry paste, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf

Serves 2

Thai pipis

Ingredients

1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp Thai yellow curry paste
2 tsp finely chopped lemongrass
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
12 pipis, soaked in a bucket of water overnight to get rid of the sand and scrubbed
a handful of Thai basil, roughly chopped
1 tsp lime juice

Directions
  1. Over a low heat, put the oil in a medium sized pot and add the curry paste. Lightly sauteé for 1 minute and turn the heat up to medium high
  2. Add the pipis and stir until they start to open and cook for another 2 minutes
  3. Stir in the lemongrass, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaf and sugar
  4. Chuck out any pipis that haven't opened as they were dead before cooking and shouldn't be eaten
  5. Sprinkle the Thai basil leaves over the pipis and add the lime juice.
Serve in a bowl and top with more basil leaves.

Thai pipis - yellow curry, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf

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  • 28/01/2012 1:38 p.m.
    Dave Macadam

    been to new zealand 3 times now,going again feb 2013 2 get married.love fishing and found pipis great bait,thought about cooking them and will do now..can do something with my bait if i dont catch lol...dave from arnold nottingham uk
  • 17/01/2011 10:46 a.m.
    *** Andrea Wong ***

    Well... you have to eat while on holiday, ay! :)
  • 17/01/2011 7:21 a.m.
    hungryandfrozen

    Wow, I see that going on holiday is no excuse for dulling down your eating habits :) These three sauces look delicious, I remember eating pipi when I was a kid, definitely not like this though ;) excellent advice to bear in mind about the pipi, and that beach looks beautiful.