This dish is from #EatInSeason: Autumn Inspiration.
Oysters are a nutritional powerhouse of minerals, vitamins and other compounds: one of the best sources of zinc, as well as providing protein, vitamin D, iron, copper, manganese and selenium and are being rich in anti-oxidants, omega-3 and fatty acids. Eating oysters can boost over-all body function and health in numerous ways, including immunity, wound healing, circulatory and bone health.
Oysters come into season from September onwards and are not only one of the healthiest foods, but are good for the environment as well. Oyster farms have minimal environmental impact, unlike fish farms, and actually clean the surrounding waters of pollutants.
Most fishmongers sell them for around £1 each and with a little practise they are not hard to open. You will need a shuck knife (for sale at fishmongers, or buy online), a special stub-pointed, thick knife used to pry open the back hinge and separate the body from the shell. You will find plenty of step by step picture guides online but this is my guidance:
- Wash and scrub the oysters in fresh cold water.
- Use a tea towel to hold the oyster flat side up, cup-side down with the hinge end – the pointiest, tapered end poking out from under the towel.
- Using the shuck knife, insert the point into the hinge, wiggling whilst pushing downwards until you find the sweet point at which you have the knife tip solidly in place and can leverage the shell open by a twist. This part takes practice and is the knack you need to master, it’s not about force but more position. Be careful with your holding hand and make sure the kitchen cloth is protecting your hand.
- Once you have gently pried open the top shell from the bottom, run the shuck knife along the length of the oyster, keeping it flat none of the juices run out, and sever the muscle of the oyster from the top shell. Do this by feel as you cannot see it and keeping the knife as flat as possible to the top shell.
- Now you can remove and discard the top and check the oyster has no bits of grit in it from your work, remove these if there are any. It should be swimming in liquid and smell of the sea. If it smells of anything else, discard that one, though this is rare.
- Finally, free the oyster underneath from the shell by running the knife around the base, being careful to conserve the liquid and sever the muscle which is a small pad, on one side halfway down.
Now it is ready to eat. This delicacy doesn’t need much and I often enjoy them just as they come tasting of the sea, but if you fancy trying out some dressings, here are 3 of my favourites – serve on a platter of crushed ice, with a little pot of each dressing for guests to choose their own.
- Simply serve with cut wedges of lemon to squeeze.
- 1 shallot finely diced
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp runny honey
Sesame & Chili Dressing
- 2 tbsp apple cider or rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos or tamari
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 red finger chili deseeded and finely diced
- 1 small spring onion, finely sliced
Photo credit: Emma Godwin