full of new season Native oysters - there's an ‘R’ in the month
after all, which suggests that these lovable bi-valve molluscs are
at their best.
thrive in cooler, winter waters. The tear-shaped Pacific,
or Rock oysters are available all year round, but the tastier,
rarer, rounder and more expensive Natives are only now adorning
the fishmongers’ slabs.
Expect to pay 64p
- £1.30 each for Pacifics and around £1.50 for Natives. The Natives
will get cheaper in the coming months.
I tried some excellent
versions from Rossmore, who farm them in 22 ponds, covering a 10-acre
site in a hidden backwater of Cork harbour, on the south coast of
Oysters can be
cooked, but I think they’re at their best when raw, with
either a squidge of fresh lemon juice, a few drops of the fiery
Louisiana sauce, Tabasco, or a touch of balsamic vinegar, or even
Serve with brown
bread and butter (Irish soda bread seems apt) and chopped shallots
in red wine vinegar cosy up nicely.
Wash down with
a dry white - Muscadet and Touraine Sauvignon from the Loire
Valley are spot on.
we're on the subject...
that oysters can put lead in your pencil (boys), or a swagger
in your swivel (girls) is down to the high levels of zinc
and iron they contain, which are important for male fertility.
contain dopamine, the chemical which provokes sexual
interest and increases the intensity of sensation in both
the fuel which fired Roman orgies and Casanova used to
down 60 a day (well, it beats smoking).
oysters can choose to be either sex (ambi-sexual in other
words), as their lives progress, although they start out as
it’s more popular to be female when there is plenty of food
around. In rare cases oysters have been found with both
sets of sex organs (game, set and match there)
Doing the prep
them on the day of purchase, keeping them at the bottom of the
fridge, covered in a damp tea cloth (or layer of seaweed, which
your fishmonger might provide), with the flat side uppermost.
A good ‘shucking’
(opening) knife is crucial to get into them, as otherwise you’ll
snap the blades of your lovely kitchen cutlery. The proper knives
are broad, thick-bladed and perfect for working open the well secured
Once open, hang
on to the juice (‘love potion’) and separate the meat of the
oyster from the two halves of shell, using the shucking knife.
Add the Tabasco,
or whatever, put your head back, pour the lot in, chew for a few
moments and enjoy the sensation as it slips down your clacker
(as with all things in life, not everyone is up for this!).
Eating a dodgy
oyster is best avoided, so ensure it’s clamped shut, or if
gapping, give the shell a tap and it should swiftly close.
Once open, it should
glisten and smell sweet and fresh. If either dull looking or giving
off an unpleasant whiff - bin it.
Once exposed to
air, it expires instantly...so you are not actually putting
a living beastie in your gob!
As ever, if you're
going the whole way - do it with gusto (lucky old gusto)...!