Whilst in England earlier this year I was lucky enough to visit the Oyster Festival at Whitstable. This is a 3 day celebration of all things oyster, dating back to Norman times. It was a great day, there was a market and music, a fun fair and as much seafood as you could poke a stick at! The seaside town of Whitstable is also lovely with some great shops and eateries. Well worth a visit even if the festival isn’t happening.
How to best to celebrate this day and the humble oyster but with another quintessentially English ingredient… rhubarb!
WTF??? Yep, rhubarb. Sounds weird but bear with me…it really works. Meantime, here’s some pics from the Oyster Festival.
While we were in Whitstable, we had our oysters with a traditional mignonette which is chopped shallots, red wine vinegar and cracked black pepper. I jazzed mine up with some very finely chopped rhubarb.
Raw rhubarb has a sharp, clean, crisp, sour taste – imagine sour green apples mixed with celery which mixes perfectly with the red wine vinegar and shallots in a traditional mignonette, plus it makes it a glorious pink colour!
Of course, if you want a traditional mignonette, you can use this recipe from Bon Appetit. But why not take a teeny step into the wild side and try this? It is really lovely!
Any leftover mignonette can be used as a delicious dressing for any salad greens!
Oysters with Rhubarb Mignonette
A fresh and tangy take on a traditional mignonette.
Maybe it’s because it’s Halloween week but here I am with another thing, actually two things that scare me. Batter and deep-frying. Because I made Sliders. And not just any sliders, Oyster Sliders. And not just any Oyster Sliders but Old Bay Oyster Sliders!
Can I just say that these were as good as they look?
Start off with some mini brioche…..hmmm..now where would you find some of them? And toast them up.
Whip up some aioli ( I had this saffron and roasted garlic aioli from something else I had made), but any aioli or even mayo would be fine. But the saffron makes it look so pretty!
Choose your vegetables. I used lettuce, carrot, red cabbage and red onion.
Don’t forget the pickle! I used a pickled jalapeno but a dill pickle would also be fine.
Next up a tempura style batter loaded with Old Bay! Heat some oil, drench your oysters in the batter and drop into the hot oil. These only need a minute or so to cook. Drain on crumpled paper:
Now, you have to promise not to laugh or judge me too harshly…(oh wow does that make a third thing that frightens me, in this post alone?) but I made my first ever gif.
Ok, deep breath, here ’tis…
Eeek….if anyone’s left after that, here’s the recipe!
No, it’s not my review of the new Dan Brown blockbuster, it’s bacon! Lovely, crispy, salty bacon wrapped around…stuff that isn’t bacon.
I love bacon even though it was my undoing. I was a very happy vegetarian for two years in high school. If my mother is reading this, right about now, she will be having a little snicker to herself and muttering “Huh…The only vegetarian in the world who didn’t eat vegetables.” And there is a grain of truth in that. I did spend two years eating not much more than tomato and cheese sandwiches and the occasional omelette.
Until I was brought down by bacon.
(Cue dramatic music…wow, this could be turning into a Dan Brown novel).
I used to have tennis lessons, very early, every Sunday morning. The family that lived next door to the tennis courts would, without fail, have a fry up for breakfast every week. The smell of bacon would drift out over the tennis court in a haze of mouth-watering deliciousness. “Eat me, eat me, ” it taunted.
Over weeks of this, bacon came to represent so much more than a tasty breakfast dish, it became a symbol of a better life. The kind of life where, on Sunday mornings, people had leisurely cooked breakfasts and listened to Mozart and spoke French whilst doing the Sunday crossword in less than twenty minutes. It represented a glamour and sophistication utterly removed from my reality of huffing and puffing around a glorified field, still half asleep, wearing a polyester track suit that did not so much keep the cold out as keep the sweat in and having someone repeatedly yelling at me to hit a damn ball over a stupid net. I began to yearn for bacon in the same way I yearned for Paris and champagne and pink Sobranie cigarettes in one of those long cigarette holders like Audrey Hepburn’s in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I was a weird child.
I have no idea whether the neighbours were the glamorous types I imagined them to be or a bunch of suburban lard-arses who are now appearing on The Biggest Loser so that their fat-clogged arteries can be given a second lease of life. I suspect the latter. If so, can I suggest that the producers of the show make them play tennis. At seven. On a Sunday morning. In winter. I’ll be lurking somewhere near by with a portable grill and a couple of rashers. Let’s see how they like it.
Anyway, I lasted about three months before I caved. One cold wintry morning I came home from said lesson. Mum asked if I would like my tomato and cheese sandwich plain or toasted.
“I want bacon” I snapped in the snotty way only a 16-year-old can. Then I stomped upstairs to my room and listened to The Smiths until mum called me back downstairs for a plate of lovely, lovely life-affirming B & E.
History lesson over. And that’s about all the history I can give you because the reasons oysters are linked with angels, prunes with devils and either wrapped in bacon is termed “on horseback” are lost in time. Maybe that could be the subject of the next Dan Brown… an obscure culinary term could lead Robert Langdon on a search that reveals the long hidden conspiracy behind whether Elvis really did die on his toilet. (If you’re reading this Brown, back off now. I know what you’re like. The Fried-Peanut-Butter and Bacon-Sandwich Code is mine.)
Inspired by the Angels on Horseback recipe in The Party Cookbook I recently went on a bacon rampage and made three versions of this classic hors d’œuvre.
If you like it spicy, adding a dash of tabasco sauce to the Angels only makes them more delicious!
For Devils on Horseback, substitute Prunes for the Oysters above and leave out the paprika.
For Cheesy Devils, stuff the prunes with Goat’s Cheese before wrapping in the bacon.
Some people like to serve their Devils on Horseback with Mango Chutney. I’m not a big fan but I did have some Kashmiri Date Chutney in the fridge and this was quite nice as a dip for the Cheesy Devils.
These were all delicious and I would make them all again. In order my preference was Angels on Horseback, Cheesy Devils, then Devils on Horseback but I would not discount any of them.
I no longer desire the Sobranies, but Angels on Horseback with a Glass of champagne and the Sunday Cryptic crossword? C’est parfait!
I had a dilemma this week. I was reading “The Party Cookbook” and found a recipe for a little dish called Osborne Oysters. Now, it just so happened that with the half dozen oysters we buy as a little treat each Saturday, I had all the ingredients on hand to make this dish.
But, let’s face it. Oysters aren’t cheap. And this recipe consisted of a few ingredients that I would never have put together – what if it tasted as bad as it sounded? On the other hand, what if it turned out to be a magical combination that would have the likes of Heston Blumenthal lamenting “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Just to be clear on what I was up against, here are the ingredients for Osborne Oysters:
No, you don’t need to adjust your screen….that is an oyster, a banana and some Jarlsberg. Now you see my dilemma? My gut instinct is that those are three things that should never even be seen together (which is why one lives on the land, one in the sea and one on a tree) let alone combined into a dish. I was still torn though, a little Heston Blumenthal devil on my shoulder was urging me to do it. Then a tiny angel looking suspiciously like Marco Pierre White jogged my memory of a more recent seafood – banana melange.
Early in the current series of Masterchef: The Professionals, one of the candidates made a name for himself by serving Marco Pierre White a fish stew with a banana flavoured aioli.
That name was buffoon.
Marco described it as one of the worst things he had eaten. Ever.
So the big question. Did I make and eat Osborne Oysters?
Not on your life. I listened to my inner MPW and ate those oysters in my preferred fashion…with lemon, Worchestershire sauce and Tabasco. And they were delicious!
My preferred Oyster mix (although I don’t usually measure it out) is:
½ teaspoon lemon juice
3 drops Worchestershire sauce
1 drop Tabasco
Et Voila…down the hatch!
I always follow this up with some bread and butter. I have no idea why but Oysters make bread and butter taste even better than normal!
For anyone more stupid braver than me…here is the recipe for Osborne Oysters:
For everyone else, if you take one thing away from this week’s post it’s to always listen to your inner Marco.