Cockles are small, edible bivalves. Traditionally sold with winkles and whelks, cockles have been a popular British seaside snack for many years. They were also sold outside London pubs by vendors who, in the absence of scales, used a pint glass as a measure. They've been sold by the pint ever since.
Live cockles in their shells are available from some fishmongers – these undergo rigorous cleaning processes that significantly reduce the risk of transmitting a food-borne illness. Frozen raw cockles are also available and the freezing process eliminates parasites. However, the safest way to consume cockles is cooked. Cooked and shelled cockles can be bought in jars, preserved in brine or vinegar.
Cockles can be used in seafood pies or tossed into salads. They can steamed until their shells open, like mussels. Use them in soups, risotto and paella or stew them in a tomato sauce and serve with pasta.