It`s that time of the year again, so give yourself that calcium boost, eat snails!
Go on, try them……the dish is nice and easy!
40/50 snails prepped*
3/4 ripe tomatoes
2 medium onions
7/8 garlic cloves
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
S & P preferably ground peppercorns
Taking your cured snails, clean away any impurities from the outside of the shell, and the dried membrane over the shell entrance, using a pointed knife. Wash well under running water, but do not immerse in the water as they will drown before they`re ready to! This will allow the live ones to emerge. It is very important that you only use snails that have shown their noses. Discard any that have not shown their noses. Leave to one side for a few minutes.
In the blender, zap the onions and the garlic till almost pureed, then fry with the olive oil on a gentle heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the bay leaf and star anise, then the grated tomato. Allow to heat through, add S & P, turn down the heat to minimal and allow to cook.
In the meantime, spread a plate with salt and each snail which has poked it`s head out, place nose down onto the salt. This will make it retreat inside the shell, taking with it some salt.
Once you have salted them all, throw them into a pan with cold water and bring to the boil. There will be escapees, so keep your eye on the pan till it takes a boil. Leave on a galloping roll for 8/10 minutes. There will be foam in the water, so it may spill over. Once cooked, rinse them under running water and allow to strain for a couple of minutes.
When the sauce is cooked, throw the snails into the pan and allow to simmer with the sauce for 5 minutes or so.
This dish makes a delightful meze with raki, or will make a main meal.
In Spring when they are in abundance, they can be gathered all over the gardens and stone walls. They are active and have ingested various plants, which not only would be bitter for us to eat, but potentially harmful to us. So when we harvest them in Spring, we usually put them into something like a basket, or netting bag, (where they are able to breath, of course), throw in a small handful of pasta/macaroni or even just flour and leave them. The snails will eat the pasta and cleanse themselves of the bitterness. When they are stored in this manner, they will form a skin over the entrance to the shell.
It will only take a couple of days to cleanse.
If you happen to find a good crop in the Summer, they will have formed a membrane over the entrance to the shell and will be already cured (as they have not had anything green to consume).