Cor Blimey!! Cockney Food Gone All Posh!

16 Apr

Didn’t we ‘ave a loverlee time!

Time was when these were a working man’s staple down in ‘ole London town. A little bit of malt vinegar and a toothpick to pull out the grit and you were away.

Dirty Whelks

Whelks are sea snails and grow around the coast of Britain and elsewhere and these days our whelks seem to have found themselves a market in South Korea. There is more information from the Marine Conservation Society here. I was actually unaware that there was any pressure on them when I bought this lot but still it’s a bit of a shame that there is no longer a natural market for them over here. Apart from some very good restaurants or the dying breed of cockney fish vans traditionally found in pub car parks, there doesn’t seem to be anything in between.

under water

I’ve eaten whelks but never cooked them. It always sounded like a bit too much effort. When I’ve had them before, they’ve been either very nice or very rubbery. Still, I couldn’t resist picking up some to see how they would turn out once placed in my foolish hands.

I said it sounded like a bit too much effort and I half still think that. Basically, this is because you have to clean the blighters forever to get rid of the grit.  Now, there is a man whose recipes I generally trust and who goes by the name of Mark Hix, you may have heard of him as he is quite famous over here, and I chose to follow a recipe of his from his book British Regional Food.

Basically, it’s a simple snails in garlic butter recipe but strike-a-light it was blummin’ long-winded. The first step was cleaning them as best you could, which I did. It has to be said they were quite dirty on the whole and it was good 10 minute job. I was glad the Profesorette wasn’t taken with the idea of having a serving or I would have had to have spent more time at the sink. They were then drained and put into a bowl with some salt and left for two hours. I was already bored by this stage but did eventually find something else to do to fill my time. After this step, you are supposed to leave them rinsing under the tap for 30 minutes but in these dry, dusty days of hose pipe bans I decided not to be quite so wasteful and just rinsed them in a couple of changes of water.

The next stage was creating the cooking liquor. 1 onion, 12 white peppercorns, fennel seeds, thyme , 1/2 lemon and some white wine were all put into a pan and the whelks were added. The pan was then topped up so they were covered with water and some salt added. This was brought to the boil before lowering the heat and simmering for 45 minutes. At this point, I was a bit worried that 45 minutes seemed a long time and that they would be sure to come out rubbery but, uncharacteristically perhaps, I stuck with the recipe.

After the 45 minutes, they were taken off the heat and allowed to cool down in the liquid for yet another hour, and to think I had originally planned to have them for breakfast! Fortunately, I was around the house most of the day yesterday so when they were cooled, I plucked them out of their shells and chopped them up, being sure to remove the foot and any grey sacks from them.

Whelks and Beer

The butter mixture was made with garlic chives, butter, lemon, salt and pepper and the meat was mixed into it. The shells were then given another clean and the mixture stuffed into them. Nearly there! Puff, deep breath!

Salt was spread along the bottom of an oven dish and the filled whelks were rested on this to prevent them slipping and the butter leaking out during baking. Needless to say, I didn’t quite get this right!

Just put the ruddy things in the oven!

Last bit!!!!! Into the oven at Gas 6/200C for 12-15 minutes and they were ready. Finally! It’s tiring me out just writing this.

Verdict/Conclusion: Really nice, better than garden snails and best of all I managed not to make them rubbery – take note Essex! However, I wish more restaurants and pubs would do them properly so I could eat more of them without having to hang around all day preparing them. Would I make them again? If I had a sous chef maybe.

Non-gritty, non-rubbery, cor blimey Whelks done all posh like!

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