Digging for cockles and clams in Cambados

Wearing white wellies and brandishing a long-toothed rake and a curved trowel, I trudged down the beach at low tide behind Angelines de Carrete, one of 200 women in the Shellfish Pickers’ Association of Cambados. “You usually spend three months learning how to do this,” said Angelines, as she bent down and deftly scooped a clam out of the sand. How hard could it be? Well, let’s just say there’s a knack and it didn’t come naturally to me.

The Rias Baixas region of Galicia, with its crinkly coastline scored by deep inlets and framed by beaches of pale golden sand, is stunning in itself, but when you add the seafood and the crisp Albariño white wines to the mix, you have the perfect package. Shame about the driving drizzle that day though.

While splashing around with a bucket was a great way to work up an appetite, it was just as well I didn’t have to collect enough shellfish for my lunch. Yanking off my wellies, I headed instead for Pandemonium (+34 986 543 638, Rúa Albariño 16), where chef Antonio Botana turns the excellent local ingredients into exquisite dishes. This was the most outstanding meal I’ve had so far this year, particularly the rice flavoured with local seaweed and topped with an enormous fleshy cockle – picked, of course, just a couple of hundred yards away.

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