Have you ever been to Silvas in Petersham? Man, that place serves up some mean Portuguese. It’s so my kind of place – loud, straight to the point, big flavours and seriously good food. I love almost everything they’ve got. From espetada, those vertical skewers studded with large hunks of beef partnered with squares of golden fried polenta, to barbecued Portuguese chicken, moist, garlicky, charred, hinting of chili. Then there’s this soft cuttlefish with a sauce of godknowswhat – I think it’s a reduction of soy and balsamic, but they won’t tell me. Oh and the sardines. Jesus. So simple, and so bloody good. There’s also pipis, one of those specials on the blackboard that never seem to disappear. A 5 year special I’d say. So good I can’t even explain. Though not as omnipresent at the tables of the large Portuguese families stuffing their faces with the awesomeness of charcoal grilled chicken, to me, it’s an equally convincing reason to hit the road and seek seafood salvation at Silvas.
Pipis are not commonly found on the menus of Sydney restaurants, are they? I hardly spot them, unless they’re smothered with X.O. sauce, in which case they also rock. I love these little molluscs. Gather them or buy them live. A kilo is a meal for two, or one. Steam them kindly or cook them gently with a half reduced cup of dry white wine like I did. Cover them until they open and then stop before they overcook. Make beurre blanc, but use garlic instead of shallots and stick with wine and lemon juice for acidity, forgoing the vinegar. Add roughly chopped parsley (to qualify the dish as rustic, of course). The cooking liqueur of the pipis is usually too gritty for me, so I discard that. Toss the cooked pipis in the beurre blanc and make sure you have plenty of bread to mop up the juices. Or just go to Silva’s and order the pipis special. I’d wager a bet it’s still there.
P.S. Merry Christmas! Hope this year has been kind to you, your family and friends. My thoughts and prayers go to my own good friend Steve Shaw. I hope the new year sees your recovery. We love you Stevo!