Huîtres au Sel Rose

Oysters with Rosy Salt

Especially in coastal France, but also surprisingly far inland, oysters and most other shellfish are far easier to buy than here. We have neglected our own shellfish industry most disgracefully, with the result that the French and other Europeans rush our superb lobsters, crabs, oysters and mussels to their own northern regions.

In the south of France there is usually an inspiring array of fish (in the market of Arles I counted six varieties of oyster) of all kinds, many unrecognizable to the newcomer. But armed with Alan Davidson’s invaluable Mediterranean Seafood you may step into these uncharted waters with confidence. While tracking down a variety of clam known as ‘Warty Venus’, I tried some violets on the advice of this guide; a violet is an extraordinary fungoid-looking creature whose yellow insides are eaten raw. I can’t say that I shall rush to buy them again but I am still confident that Sir Arnold Bax’s advice – try anything once except folk-dancing and incest – holds good for gastronomes.

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Ingredients

  • 6–12 oysters per person
  • lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fine ground sea salt
  • 1 dessertspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 coffeespoon cayenne pepper

Method

Open the oysters and discard the top shell, arrange the lower shells on a bed of cracked ice. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mix the salt, paprika and cayenne pepper together and let each person season their oysters just before eating them.

This rosy salt is Raymond Oliver’s. He recommends it for sprinkling on thinly sliced truffle or peewits’ eggs. I’ve never knowingly eaten the egg of a peewit but have found rosy salt is good on quails’ eggs.

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