The summer is gone, the hills are obscured by a grey veil of clouds and drizzle and I am planning my winter-getaways (Portugal and, possibly, the Miami Winter Music Conference — watch this space).
Already, it is time for nostalgic memories of the summer that was. This year, we did not manage a late August visit to my sister’s beach villa in Borth and now it is too late to catch the last of the sunshine, to eat freshly caught fish, chips and mushy peas while sitting on a bench in the breeze or (damn) to try out her new sailing boat (we had the wetsuits ready in the boot of the car ever since hearing the news — when sailing with John you do need a wetsuit).
Last year, we went to visit her on the last weekend of August. Casting around for dinner ideas, I went to the butchers in nearby Machynleth in search for a local speciality.
I pointed at a tray of blushing pink, soft, round balls: “What are these?”
“Mountain oysters,” the butcher said.
I had my suspicions, but kept them from John who stood next to me.
“How do you cook them?”
The butcher suggested coating and deep-frying which wasn’t practical and too messy so I thought up a recipe on the way back to Borth. The saltmarsh up the road provided a few handfulls of fat, plump cockles. Not enough for a chowder, but it gave me an idea for a starter.
Welsh Mountain Oysters with Cockle and Cream Sauce
4 mountain oysters; vegetable oil and butter (ca. half-and-half, the oil keeps the butter from burning) to shallow-fry; about a dozen cockles, cleared in fresh seawater overnight; 3 shallots; 100 ml double cream; salt ‘n’ pepper; 1 TB chopped parsley plus extra to sprinkle over
Shallow-fry the finely chopped shallots in a heavy casserole, add cockles and cover with tightly fitting lid. Steam open cockles (1-2 minutes), discard shells but keep juice. Stir in cream and parsley, season and set aside.
Clean and halve the mountain oysters, fry gently for 2 minutes each side. Arrange on warm plates, pour over sauce and sprinkle with parsley.