Oysters are probably the best-known aphrodisiac and, although they aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, I love them! They’re available year-round, but the best time to eat them is in the depths of winter when the ocean is icy cold and they are plump and juicy. British oysters are fantastic and great value. There are two main types available – rock oysters and native oysters. Both of these would make a great starter to a romantic dinner.
When you buy them, make sure that they are tightly closed and heavy in the hand. Ideally, oysters should be straight out of the sea when you eat them. Give them a rinse in cold water before you start preparing them – this can be tricky so please be very careful!
To open them, you’ll need an oyster knife which is short, thick and quite blunt. Do not use a normal kitchen knife! It’s dangerous and you’ll probably snap the tip of the knife off. A screwdriver is probably a better bet if you don’t have an oyster knife.
Hold the oyster curved-side down on a chopping board with a folded kitchen cloth between the shell and your hand. This is to help you get a good grip and protect your hand.
Look for the hinge between the top shell and the bottom shell, and poke the knife tip into the crack. You need to push quite hard and work it in there but eventually you should be able to prise the top shell off. It’s not always that easy so it might be a good idea to try a few before dinner to get the hang of it. Wear an apron too in case you get a bit dirty.
When you get the oyster open, throw away the top shell. If there is any seawater in the bottom shell with the oyster, try and keep it in there. Pick out any fragments of shell and place the oyster on a plate with a mound of rock salt or crushed ice in the middle.
Season it however you like, then tip that lovely fresh oyster into your mouth!