Tellines, clams and other seafood

Clams, 'clovisses' and tellines.

The Thau basin is the richest source of clams and 'clovisses' in France. Only professionals are permitted to gather these shellfish. 

In Sète, a small clam is called a 'clovisse', as opposed to the clam itself, which is always placed at the top of every shellfish platter worthy of the name.

Tellines are small bivalves about two or three centimetres long that live at the edge of the sea, burrowing under several centimetres of wet sand. Tellines are rated very highly by connoisseurs on account of their delicate flavour, and they can be eaten raw, with parsley and garlic, or in a creamy sauce with pasta in the same way as 'clovisses'. 

Sea urchins

Caught in the sea down to a depth of 50 metres, they're small in circumference but the coral is very large and ranges in colour from golden yellow to dark red. They are eaten raw, with a little spoon, like caviar.

They're in season from September until the end of April, and the best places to buy them are at the central market hall in Sète and all the good fishmongers around the Thau basin. 

Violets or 'Bijus'

In Languedoc, they're called 'bijus' or 'sea potatoes'. They're shaped like a large potato, brown-black in colour, and covered in little attached organisms, hence their scientific name Microcosmus, meaning 'little world.'

Sea snails

In Sète, the term sea snails is used for two distinct species of gastropods: the spiny murex and the 'poivre'.  

The former, whose learned name is Balinus brandaris, has formidable spikes in spirals around its shell, earning it the nickname of 'pointed'. It's caught in the sea and secretes a valuable purple dye. 

The latter, Hexaplex trunculus, also called 'poivre' meaning 'pepper', is most often found at the bottom of the lagoon. The absence of spikes on their shell are replaced by inoffensive little protuberances, and its darker colour edging towards green, makes it clearly distinguishable from the 'pointed' variety. 

Both are eaten cooked in stock and served with garlic mayonnaise. Their firm, tasty flesh is truly delicious.