Highbury oyster masterclass leaves me all shuck up
PUBLISHED: 12:38 05 February 2015
Gazette man learns the tricky art of shelling famous aphrodisiac for Valentine’s Day
Ahh Valentine’s Day – that magical time when card manufacturers’ fancy turns to love.
Regardless of your own thoughts on how much the February 14 romance-fest is drummed up to the benefit of flower, card and food purveyors, a large proportion of us chaps feel under a fair bit of pressure to do something pretty marvellous for our better halves.
And what speaks the language of love more eloquently than oysters – scientifically proven to be an aphrodisiac?
With this in mind, seafood restaurant-cum-fishmongers Prawn on the Lawn, in St Paul’s Road, is running Saturday afternoon oyster shucking masterclasses, giving tips on extracting the gorgeous little beasts for those lacking in kitchen charisma.
As I can attest, a bit of advice is all but essential before you start shucking away for a candlelit dinner for two. Nothing spoils the mood more than an oyster knife through your hand and a four-hour wait at the Whittington Hospital.
First up, restaurant owner Rick TooGood tells me, make sure your oysters are unbroken and tightly closed when you buy them. And keep them in the fridge until you’re ready.
When it’s time, grasp the shellfish with a tea towel on the rounded end, then start working a sharp knife into the hinge. And let me tell you, they need a bit of persuading.
Once you’ve got the top shell loose, slide the knife along the top to cut the little feller free, then slide in underneath to separate it from the bottom half. At that point, if you’re a master like Rick, with a cheeky flick of the knife you turn the oyster, revealing its more edible-looking side.
To finish – serve on a bed of ice, with a dressing of shallots and vinegar, some lemon wedges and, of course, a bottle of Tabasco.
The ideal drink is either a prosecco, a crisp white wine (say, for example, a Sancerre) or an Oyster Stout, like the Islington-brewed Pentonville served at Prawn on the Lawn.
Sound simple? Well, it certainly takes a bit of practice, but I was managing it by the end. Having said that – it took me about 10 minutes per oyster. The guys at Prawn on the Lawn can dig out up to 100 a night.
But there’s no two ways about it – my new-found shucking skills are going to be dynamite come Valentine’s night.
If oysters be the food of love – shuck on!
The classes run every Saturday in February, from 4 to 6pm. The restaurant will also be hosting an oyster-festival, complete with special menu, specials and oyster eating competitions, all month.
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