Pearl meat is the adductor muscle of the pearl oyster, Pinctada maxima, and while it is a highly regarded delicacy it is a by-product of pearl production. Only once the oyster is no longer used for producing pearls is it removed from the farms and sold for the meat and mother of pearl shell. Because only small quantities of pearl meat tend to be harvested annually it is an expensive commodity, selling in Australia in 2012 for at least $120 per kilogram fresh or for $400 per kilo dried in Asia. The white pearl meat can be eaten raw and is described as sweet with a hint of saltiness. It is also described as being similar to abalone or scallop in flavour.
Our pearl meat is produced by the Paspaley family, who operate about twenty farms that are dotted along more than 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) of mostly uninhabited coastline stretching from the Cobourg Peninsula to the northeast of Darwin to Dampier in Western Australia. This distance is nearly the same as from London to Moscow. These isolated bays were chosen for the protection they provide from seasonal cyclones and, most importantly, the quality of their pristine waters. The rare giant Pinctada maxima oysters that produce South Sea cultured pearls are solitary and sensitive creatures. In waters untouched by pollution, the oysters thrive in a rich soup of microscopic plankton.
Paspaley was the first company to recognise the frailty of the Pinctada maxima pearl oyster. The remote locations have also been carefully chosen for their environments untouched by pollutants in order to provide optimal conditions for the oysters to produce the world’s finest pearls — pearls that will never be enhanced artificially.
Many of their farms are located in or adjacent to national parks, marine parks or Aboriginal lands. The special issues of access, respect and utilisation of these areas are being addressed in a comprehensive environmental management plan. All farms are treated as flora and fauna reserves and all areas or items of cultural significance to Aboriginal people are not interfered with. The nature of these environments is reflected in the abundant wildlife that is a part of daily life on their farms. In the water are sharks, giant manta rays, crocodiles and countless fish. In the air, white-breasted sea eagles, kites and ospreys. And on land, curious marsupials and reptiles for which Australia is renowned. Paspaley operates with a ‘leave no trace’ environmental policy and all waste materials are removed.
Gently warm the shiitake mushroom stock (without boiling) and add the broccolini buds.
Place a shiitake mushroom on each plate, then some pearl meat. Dress with a tablespoon of the shiitake stock. Repeat this until all of the shiitake and pearl meat has been plated. Spoon
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