Oysters are funny old things. Now they’re considered a decadent aphrodisiac, when only 100 years ago they were the pigeons of the sea and would be chucked into pies as peasant food. Aphrodisiac? I’m not sure, but I do seem to have acquired a taste for them over the last 3 years.
I’ve eaten oysters all round the world and everyone seems to think that theirs are the best – well, I’ll join the patriotic club and say that the best oysters I’ve ever eaten in my life are West Mersea Essex native oysters, sometimes known as Colchester oysters, along with some West Irish oysters that have a beautiful iron and subtle seawatery taste. The oysters directly from West Mersea are fantastic because they are farmed a couple of miles down the estuary where Maldon sea salt comes from. The nutrients from the marshland are leached out when the rain falls on it and are later drained into the estuary, so it’s a fantastically nutritious area. I’ll always go for small oysters because, quite frankly, I can’t handle the big ones.
You can get your fishmonger to open the oysters for you or you can freshly shuck (open) them with a small knife or oyster-shucker, using a tea towel to hold them, eat them the day that you buy them and serve them on some ice cubes that you’ve bashed up in a tea towel.
Finely grate ½ a thumb-sized piece of peeled ginger and mix with 6 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1 finely chopped and deseeded red chilli and a little finely sliced fresh coriander. Stir in a teaspoon of sugar until dissolved. Serve in a dish with the oysters.