Standing in a battered boat on a cold creek in the middle of winter might not be most people’s idea of fun, but I loved it. I was with Bill Pinney (that’s him, at the top), whose family has been farming oysters in Suffolk since just after World War Two. Bill is a mine of information, not just on oysters but on marine life in general and the art of smoking.
Anyone who’s ever visited the pretty estuarine town of Orford will know that Pinney’s is an institution, with both a restaurant and a shop selling the family’s smokehouse products. I went home with my interview for this month’s Suffolk magazine and a dozen juicy oysters.
This is what I did with them … try making both and eat them alternating hot and cold. The contrast is very appealing. Bill is somewhat sceptical about the aphrodisiac qualities of oysters so you can judge for yourself whether it’s any more stimulating than that. Either way, a great start to a meal, on Valentine’s Day or any other.
Raw Oysters with an Asian Dressing
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 small thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
The juice of 1 lime
2 -3 spring onions, finely chopped
Shuck the oysters, mix together the dressing ingredients and spoon a little over each oyster.
Grilled Oysters with Herb Butter
You’ll need an oven-proof frying pan with a thick layer of sea salt, to cook and serve
6 oysters, shucked
40g salted butter, room temperature
1 heaped tspn grated Parmesan
1 heaped tbsp chopped parsley
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
A grind of black pepper
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
Mix the butter with the Parmesan, parsley, cayenne, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper, place on a piece of cling film and wrap and roll into a sausage shape. Place in the freezer to firm up.
Heat the grill to high and nestle the shucked oysters in a bed of sea salt in a heat-proof pan. Slice the herb butter into six rounds and place one on each oyster.
Top with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and grill for 4-6 minutes, until the topping is browned and bubbling.