Prepare the first stage of the batter for the beignets: Whisk together the flour, water, warm beer, olive oil and egg yolk to form a smooth batter. Clean down the sides of the bowl and cover with cling-film to prevent a skin forming. Allow the batter to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Shuck all 18 oysters and remove from the shells, saving the oyster juice for the vichyssoise. Pick out the 12 largest oysters and lay them on a clean tea towel. Refrigerate whilst preparing the vichyssoise, leaving the remaining 6 oysters in the juice.
Prepare the Vichyssoise: Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, and when foaming, add the potatoes, onions and leeks and sweat the vegetables without colour over a medium heat for 8 - 10 minutes. Add the Noilly Prat and continue to cook until it has evaporated. Pour in the chicken stock or water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the potato pieces are tender. Add the cream and bring the soup back to the boil and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and blend until smooth. Pass the soup through a fine sieve pressing down hard on the vegetables to extract as much flavour as possible. Using a hand-held blender, add the oyster juice and the 6 remaining oysters to the vichyssoise in stages, tasting from time to time to check whether less oysters and juice are required than is suggested in the recipe. After the oysters have been blended, taste the vichyssoise and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Once more, pass the vichyssoise through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan.
Heat the vegetable oil to 180°C. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold through the batter mixture. Lightly season the flour with salt and freshly ground pepper. Dust the twelve oysters in the flour, place them into the batter, and gently work with your fingertips until each oyster is evenly coated. Remove the oysters from the batter, allowing any excess to drain off. Place into the oil and cook until the batter puffs up and becomes crisp. Turn the oysters with a fork and continue to cook until golden. Using a slotted spoon remove the oysters from the oil and drain on a clean tea towel. Lightly season the beignets with Maldon salt, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
© 2005 Liam Tomlin. All rights reserved.