Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a starter or serves 12 as a canapé
Oysters are one of those ingredients that you either love or loathe. Personally, I’m not fond of raw oysters, but somehow I find cooked oysters easier to eat and more palatable. When I think of oysters, memories come flooding back to me of the famous Marco Pierre White’s well-known ‘Tagliatelle of Oysters with Caviar’ – such a fantastic dish and now a treasured classic, but in those days (in the 1990’s) this was cutting edge cuisine of the highest order.
Fresh sorrel and oysters are both truly seasonal treats. The combination of the eye-watering sour tang of sorrel and the sweetness of oysters works a treat. This recipe is what I would describe as a ‘show-off’ dish that you make for that special occasion. Whether you serve it for 2 or 12, it’s a real showstopper and definitely worth the effort. A cream whipper is required for serving the foaming sorrel velouté.
Ingredients & Method
For the sorrel velouté
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 banana shallots, finely diced
- 100ml dry vermouth
- 200ml fish stock
- 100ml double cream
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 100g fresh sorrel, washed and drained
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the pickled cucumber
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- a pinch of sea salt
- a pinch of caster sugar
For the oyster beignets
- 75g self-raising flour
- 20g cornflour
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 125ml sparkling water
- 2 egg whites
- 12 small–medium fresh oysters (in shell), washed thoroughly
- sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- edible fresh flowers (such as chive, thyme or nasturtium flowers), if available, and fresh coriander cress, to garnish
First, make the sorrel velouté. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the shallots and salt and pepper, then cover and sweat over a low heat for about 8 minutes or until the shallots turn transparent. Pour the vermouth into the pan and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, then bubble over a high heat for 4–5 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8–10 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and bring the velouté back to the boil, then add the lemon juice to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Pour the velouté into a blender, add the sorrel and blend until smooth.
Pour the velouté into a cream whipper. Charge with 2 gas pellets, shake vigorously, then refrigerate for 2–3 hours so that the mixture thickens.
Once the sorrel velouté is chilled and ready, make the pickled cucumber. Peel the cucumber, then cut it in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Finely chop the cucumber flesh into 2–3mm dice, then place in a bowl, stir in the cider vinegar, salt and sugar and leave to macerate for 10 minutes. Just before serving, drain the cucumber on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, make the oyster beignets. Place the flour, cornflour, salt, egg yolk and sparkling water in a bowl and mix together to make a smooth paste. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are fluffy, but stop just before the soft peak stage. Fold the egg whites into the beignet paste, then leave the batter to stand for 5 minutes.
Shuck the oysters, rinse the lower shells and oysters in cold water, then drain on kitchen paper and set aside. Discard the top shells.
Heat some sunflower oil in an electric deep-fat fryer or in a deep frying pan to a temperature of 160°C (or until a small piece of bread browns within 20 seconds in the hot oil). Once the oil is hot enough, dip each oyster into the batter, then deep-fry in the hot oil for 1–2 minutes or until golden brown and crisp all over (the cooking time will depend on the size of the oysters) – you will need to deep-fry the oysters in two batches. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the cooked oysters on kitchen paper, then season with salt.
To serve, spoon the pickled cucumber into the reserved oyster shells, dividing it evenly. Shake the cream whipper vigorously and squirt some sorrel velouté into each shell, covering the cucumber completely. Place a crisp golden oyster beignet into each shell and garnish with edible flowers and coriander cress. Serve immediately.