Monday, 20 May 2013

Molluscs and Me

This posting is to let you know I have set up a new blog on Wordpress called Molluscs and Me which is the title of the book I've written about the experience of setting up and running the snail farm. Between the chapters are recipes and information about snail farming and cooking around the world. See you at:

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Snail Caviar

Snail caviar is a delicacy that is not yet produced in Britain. But I plan to change that. There was an article in the news earlier this year suggesting that the British market was ready for this innovation and that's what I'm investigating now:

'It has taken France and Spain by storm and now suppliers are desperate to turn it into a hit with Britons. Snails eggs could soon be lining the shelves in the UK as chefs throughout Europe rediscover the delicacy, known as 'white caviar'. Already stocked in tiny cans by Harrods, the tiny pearl-like eggs have been used in banquets for wealthy Romans, Egyptians and Greeks for centuries. They are also known as 'pearls of Aphrodite' for their aphrodisiac qualities and are best marinated in herbs.

Labour of love: It takes four hours to fill a 50g tin with each egg hand-selected using tweezers. Now farmers are trying to cash in on the new craze by cultivating the molluscs, a kilo (2lb 3oz) of which can sell for up to £1,600 (1,800 euros). The high cost of the eggs, which are still cheaper than the finest beluga caviar at 4,000 euros a kilo ... makes it a risky investment.' (extract from Daily Mail Feb 2011)

Have you ever tasted snail caviar? I have and I was very impressed. The pearly white spheres burst on your tongue releasing a mushromy aroma.

I'd like to know if there are chefs, caterers and enthusiastic home cooks out there who would like to buy locally produced snail caviar. Let me know: or post a comment.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Snail pizza

For some reason, I didn't know that pizza didn't have to have tomatoes on it! Apparently the Italians put all sorts of things on a pizza base. Helen Parkins (@A Kentish Kitchen ) made a wonderful pizza with purple sprouting broccoli, fried onions, roquefort, parma ham, some of my snails salt and pepper and fried sage leaves crumbled over the top. It has inspired me to try all sorts of other combinations. Helen suggested black kale, turnip tops or nettle instead of the purple sprouting and I wondered about using small fish like fresh anchovies or something caught in waters around the British Isles like small sardines.

We began our feast with Helen's sobrasada mash which is, as she says, comfort food. The bright pink sausage is combined completely with creamy mash potato and then served with hot buttery snails - a real winner!

Helen suggested treating cooked snails as though they were squid. She showed me a Malaysian recipe for squid which we thought could be adapted. It uses hot red chillies, paprika, shrimp or anchovy paste, garlic and onion, sugar and lime or lemon juice. We didn't have time to try it today but I think it is definitely worth a go.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

My cider recipe for cooking snails

Alcohol is an essential ingredient in cooking my locally grown edible snails and here is how to use the local cider. The flavour of home cooked snails will beat anything you've tasted on holiday.

Make your cooking stock with the following ingredients:
1oo ml cider
1 litre water
1 crushed clove garlic,
chopped shallot,
chopped carrot,
sea salt and black pepper
1 clove, 1 bay leaf, small sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg,chopped parsley and thyme (could be dried or fresh)1 whole bird’s eye chilli (don’t break it up or the stock could be too hot)
(One litre of stock would cook a kilo of snails.)

Make a 10% brine preferably with sea salt

Bring a large pan of water to rapid boil and add salt. Drop the sleeping snails into the boiling water and bring back to the boil for five minutes. Plunge them into cold water after blanching so that you can handle the shells to remove the snail using a fork. Twist the snail following the shape of the shell to remove it and rinse in cider vinegar to loosen the slime.

Drop the de-shelled snails into hot brine and boil for thirty minutes to remove slime.

Remove the snails from the brine and drop them into the hot stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about one and a half hours. I use a slow cooker for this part of the process so that I can be sure they will simmer and won’t boil dry.

At the end of the cooking process turn off the heat and leave cooked snails in the hot stock while you prepare the garlic butter.

For the garlic butter:
Per 250 gm pack unsalted English butter (taken out of the fridge well ahead of time) which should do 5 or 6 dozen snails, depending on how much you like garlic butter.
20gm chopped garlic
40 gm chopped shallot
Freshly picked parsley – enough to colour it green
Add cider to taste but try 70 ml

The herbs, garlic and shallot are most easily chopped in a food processor with the cider unless you are a skilled chef. Then mix well with the butter.Drain the snails well and reheat with the cider butter in a hot oven in an oven proof dish until the butter bubbles. Served with crusty bread and a side salad.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Smoked snails

Smoked food is very popular in Britain and I like smoked snails very much. I cook the snails in local cider first in the usual way, then transfer them to a sweet cure for a few minutes while they are still hot. If you leave them too long they will be too salty. Twenty minutes in one of those small domestic smokers is enough to impart a good smokey flavour without damaging the soft texture. I put brown sugar in the seasalt cure to give a little sweetness and smoke some garlic with the snails so I can pack them with the garlic and fresh thyme in local rapeseed oil. I kept an apple theme by using local cider in the cooking process and apple wood for smoking.

They could be vacuum packed if you don't want to eat them straight away. Smoked foods do freeze well but you don't want to damage the texture. I tried bottling them but it wasn't a good idea!

Eat them cold.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Cooking snails

Take your Snayles (they are no way so as in Pottage) and wash them very well in many waters, and when you have done put them in a White Earthen Pan, or very wide Dish, and put as much water to them as will cover them, and then set your Dish or Pan on some coales, that it may heat by little and little, and then the Snayles will come out of the shells and so dye, and being dead, take them out and wash them very well in Water and salt twice or thrice over; then put them in a Pipkin with Water and Salt, and let them boyle a little while in that, so take away the rude slime they have, then take them out againe and put them in a Cullender; then take excellent sallet Oyle and beat it a great while upon the fire in a frying Pan, and when it boyls very fast, slice two or three Onyons in it, and let them fry well, then put the Snayles in the Oyle and Onyons, and let them stew together a little, then put the Oyle, Onyons, and Snayles altogether in an earthen Pipkin of a fit size for your Snayles, and put as much warm water to them as will serve to boyle them and make the Pottage and season them with Salt, and so let them boyle three or foure hours; then mingle Parsley, Pennyroyall, Fennell, Tyme, and such Herbs, and when they are minced put them in a Morter and beat them as you do for Green-sauce, and put in some crums of bread soaked in the Pottage of the Snayles, and then dissolve it all in the Morter with a little Saffron and Cloves well beaten, and put in as much Pottage into the Morter as will make the Spice and bread and Herbs like thickening for a pot, so put them all into the Snayles and let them stew in it, and when you serve them up, you may squeeze into the Pottage a Lemon, and put in a little Vinegar, or if you put in a Clove of Garlick among the Herbs, and beat it with them in the Morter, it will not tast the worse; serve them up in a Dish with sippets of Bread in the bottom. The Pottage is very nourishing, and they use them that are apt to a Consumption.

The Compleat Cook, Nathaniel Brook, 1658

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Reptile Food

In every clutch of snails there are some that never grow properly and can't be sold for human consumption so I sell them for reptile food. There are some lizards that like snails: skink, tegu and monitors. I believe some turtles eat them too.

I sell the snails in small quantities: 100 gm by weight and you can choose what size you want to suit your particular reptile pet. If you want larger quantities that can usually be arranged - just email and ask.