Britain, with a coastline of more than 4,000km, has a rich variety of fish and seafood that forms an important part of our culinary history, way back in fact into pre-history, with evidence in the form of huge middens of discarded shells found in various places.
Stiffkey is a small village in North Norfolk , between Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea . The geography there, with the protection afforded by Blakeney Point, and an extensive salt marsh, has created perfect conditions for cockle beds to develop.
Stiffkey (the local pronunciation is Stoo-key) Blues are special because the mud-beds the cockles colonise give the shells a distinctive blue tinge, a range of colours being seen from mauve to slate-blue. As Rick Stein points out in his English Seafood Cookery, part of the interest in eating cockles, as with mussels, is the beauty of the shells they are picked from.
The cockles are sold in various seafood restaurants in the area, featuring in fruits de mer platters and some wonderful soups. But the traditional seaside style, doused in malt vinegar and sold from little kiosks and stalls, takes some beating