It seems that I’m writing, yet again, about something people either crave or despise. But love them or hate them, you can’t deny that Oysters bring with them a certain magic, and despite the fact that the British food standards agency has recently found that three-quarters of British grown oysters contain the noro-virus (otherwise sensitively known as the winter vomiting bug), they are always an exciting prospect. Don’t worry by the way – this is not a new phenomenon – they always have contained the virus and apparently most strains are non-infectious (saying that, if you do this and you get sick, don’t come running to me. In fact it was with interest that I noted the BBC food website has no recipes with raw oysters. Lily livered chickens).
I don’t know what it is about these little rocky molluscs, but they seem to give you license to go properly mad – they’re sexy, edgy and just a little bit dangerous – what other food can boast the same? They also demand that you have a drink in your hand when you eat them – champagne, martini or bloody mary – all work beautifully. I’m sure this is why people mistakenly consider oysters to be an aphrodisiac – it’s got nothing to do with the oyster itself, it’s to do with the fact that after a dozen oysters, you’re 10 units down and your beer goggles are well and truly strapped to your head.
Many years ago, when we lived in Antibes, we used to go to the supermarket a few days before Christmas and there would be a huge mountain of boxes filled with oysters with masses of people queuing up to gets theirs in, ready for Christmas eve. It’s an absolute must for the last dinner before Christmas day for many French families – and I think we should be doing the same over here (followed by a beautiful pan fried sea bass – maybe I’ll do that one later on in the week…)
Oysters for Christmas eve
This is so simple. You need a big platter with lots of crushed ice and enough oysters for 4-5 for each person. Open them and serve with the following three sauces, which your guests simply dribble over the top of their oyster before slipping them gently into their mouths…
- Red wine vinegar, very finely chopped shallot, salt and papper and a little finely chopped parsley (and a little chilli if you like)
- Lime juice, very finely chopped garlic and fresh red chilli, caster sugar, rice wine vinegar and finely chopped fresh coriander (oh my god this one is good)
- Lemon juice and a few drops of tabasco, straight onto the little fella
And don’t forget the martini, bloody mary, champagne – it doesn’t work without…
I’m going to do this one today if I can find some oysters in town, so pictures will come later.