Saturday, September 16, 2023


Small clams plus garlic flavor a simple soup made creamy with olive oil and crushed pine nuts. 

I swore, no more cookbooks. But, when a book featuring recipes from every pueblo in the province of Málaga appeared, I could not resist. Entre Berza y Pringá, las Recetas de Málaga Pueblo a Pueblo, by Ana Abellán Ciudad (ColandCol Ediciones; 2023), has recipes for 103 dishes “that speak to us of a culture of sustenance” and tell the story of a region, both rich and poor, that extends from beaches to mountains.  (The author blogs about the food of Málaga province here .)

Of course, I turned immediately to the pages dedicated to my own village, Mijas, a whitewashed hillside pueblo overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The entry I found was for Sopa de Limón con Almejas—Lemon Soup with Clams. 

Here’s a rough translation of Ana Abellán’s recipe: Cook clams in water or fish stock with olive oil, garlic, parsley and saffron. Once the clams open, add the juice of a couple of lemons and salt to taste. Place strips of day-old bread in soup bowls and ladle the soup over them. Allow the bread to soak up some of the soup. Ya está—that’s it. 

The soup is a good example of the traditional kitchen—local ingredients such as clams that can be gathered for free or purchased for little money, combined with the basics of oil and garlic, given substance with bread. The soup varies with the region. Another version from my own village (from the book Gastronomía Tradicional Mijeña by Remedios Valenzuela) calls for potatoes instead of bread. In Galicia, famous for its shellfish, clam soup usually contains fideos, thin noodles. In Las Marismas, the marshlands at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, pine nuts gathered in the region as well as bread go into the soup. 

The following recipe is a slightly refined version of that soup, which might have been prepared by hunters camping out, who could gather pine nuts and clams, but who probably didn't have a lemon at hand. 

A good fish stock (there’s a recipe here ) enhances the soup, but is not essential as the clams make their own broth. The clams can be shelled or not before incorporating in the soup. Unshelled, they make a satisfying clacking noise when ladled into bowls. If serving them unshucked, provide bowls at the table for the shells. For a more substantial soup, instead of beating the eggs into the soup, poach one egg per person and place the poached egg on top of the toasted bread in the bowl before ladling the soup over it.

Toasted bread soaks up the flavorful clam broth.

Pine nuts both thicken the soup and, added as garnish, provide a texture contrast.

The soup is as creamy as chowder, but dairy-free.

Mediterranean pine nuts.

Where pine nuts come from: These are the nuts (actually, seeds) of the Mediterranean stone pine (Pinus pinea). I have a trio of pine trees growing alongside my patio. However, the nuts are fiendish to, first, prise out of the pine cones, then crack and extract the kernels, which must be skinned. It’s easier to buy them! However, the ones at the market are usually imported Chinese pine nuts. 

Clam Soup with Pine Nuts 
Sopa de Almejas con Piñones

Carril clams from Galicia.

Serves 4.

1 pound small clams
¼ cup olive oil + additional for the toasts
½ cup pine nuts 
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons dry Sherry (optional)
4 cups fish stock or water
2 eggs, beaten
Sliced bread, toasted
Lemon wedges, to serve

Fill a bowl with water and add a teaspoon of salt. Stir to dissolve. Rinse the clams and place them in the bowl for 1 hour to disgorge any sand in their shells. Drain and rinse the clams again. 

Place the clams in a pan with ½ cup of water. Place the pan on high heat, cover the pan and cook until clam shells open, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Shake or stir the clams if some haven’t opened. Remove clams with a slotted spoon and reserve them. If desired, some or all of the clams can be shelled. Strain the remaining clam broth through a fine sieve and reserve it.

Fried pine nuts and garlics.
Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the pine nuts and garlics. Fry them, stirring constantly, until they are golden. Remove the pan from the heat and tip it so that the oil flows to one side. Skim out the pine nuts and garlics. Save a few pine nuts to garnish the soup. Place the remainder with the garlics in a mortar or mini-food processor with 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped parsley. Grind or process to make a paste. 

Stir the flour into the oil remaining in the pan. Stir in the pine nut and garlic mixture. Cook on medium heat while stirring. Add the reserved clam broth, the Sherry, if using, and the fish stock. Keep stirring as the soup thickens slightly. Cook 10 minutes.

Place the beaten eggs in a blender container. With the blender running, slowly add one or two cups of the hot soup to the eggs. Blend until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture back into the soup. Return the clams to the soup and heat gently. Do not boil the soup after adding the eggs, or it might “break.”

Drizzle the toasted bread with olive oil and place a slice in the bottom of each shallow soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the bread. Sprinkle with reserved fried pine nuts and finely chopped parsley. Accompany the soup with lemon wedges.

More recipes with clams:


  1. How lovely - I think I would have bought that book too! There are some fantastic recipes on her blog! Thanks for the link.

    1. Mad Dog: Yes, the traditional Málaga kitchen--right up my alley.