I really must apologise for this recipe. Winkles are nuisance enough to eat, let alone messing around with the inevitably messy breadcrumb treatment. But, as I say elsewhere, foraging isn’t about convenience, and this actually produces a rather fine and unusual canape that I assure you is worth the effort. Honestly…
Serves 4-6 as a canape, or 2 as a greedy starter.
- About 100 Winkles
- The juice of half a lemon
- About 30g seasoned flour, sprinkled on a plate
- 1 beaten egg in a bowl
- Breadcrumbs from 2 slices of bread, sprinkled on a plate (just cut the crusts off a couple of slices and blitz in a food processor)
- Cooking oil
For the Court Bouillon:
Don’t worry about finding everything, just use whatever you have to hand from the following:
- 1 carrot, finely sliced
- 2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, bruised
- A glass of white wine
- A few fennel stalks
- A few parsley stalks
- A couple of sprigs of tarragon
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsps salt
- 2 tsps cracked black pepper
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Purge and scrub your Winkles (see my Purging, Scrubbing and De-bearding page).
- Put all the ingredients you are using for the court bouillon in a large saucepan and cover with 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain off the liquid, give the pan a quick wipe, then return the liquid to the pan and bring back to the boil.
- Throw in the Winkles, bring back to the boil once more, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain off the Winkles and discard the cooking liquid.
- Now, take a seat, find yourself a pin, and start winkling out all the Winkle flesh from their shells, setting them aside. The only part that is not edible is the little round disc, called an operculum, that comes out first (see picture, left). Just scrape it off and discard.
- At this point, I think it’s nice to marinate the flesh very briefly before frying, though this stage is certainly optional. When, and only when, you have extracted the flesh from all of the Winkles, squeeze over the lemon juice and let them sit for 10-15 minutes. Don’t leave them for any longer than this or else they will start to pickle, and all of their flavour – and all of the flavour from the court bouillon – will be lost to the lemon juice.
- Now for the crunch. Pour about an inch of cooking oil in a small frying pan and put it over medium heat. Now set yourself up a little production line of the bowl of Winkles, the plate of flour, the beaten egg, and the breadcrumbs (see picture, right).
- Pour off the lemon juice from the Winkles and roll them in the flour. Next, dunk them in the egg, and then finally roll them in the breadcrumbs until completely covered.
- Throw a little square of bread into the oil to test if it is hot enough. The bread should turn brown in about 30 seconds to 1 minute if the temperature is right.
- Fry the breadcrumbed Winkles in the oil in batches until golden brown and crispy, draining on a plate covered with a piece of kitchen towel as you go.
- Serve at once with cocktail sticks to skewer, sprinkled with sea salt, and with a little something to dip them in.
You could serve these with mayonnaise, lemon juice, melted garlic butter or anything else that takes your fancy. I used my Chilli Hawthorn Dipping Sauce, and I would recommend it too, if only for the irresistible opportunity for you to offer your guests the chance to dip their Winkles in your Haw Sauce.