heston blumenthal’s snail porridge
One of Heston’s chefs went on honeymoon and had ‘fish porridge’ in New York. This odd combination sent Heston’s mind reeling. He was working on a snail cannelloni recipe for the Fat Duck and realised that if he could combine snails with tasty ingredients like ham, mushrooms and butter he could make the dish more palatable. There is a long history of eating snails in England – Mendips wallfish is an absolute delicacy – but snails have a real issue with PR. Really are they any different to cockles or mussels, which sure have their detractors but look pretty similar?
With a little tailoring Heston made this dish a Fat Duck speciality and is now one of his most famous dishes. It’s taken me far too long to attempt it. There’s two recipes, the deluxe restaurant version from the Fat Duck cookbook and a more homely version here. I was aiming for the latter.
The hardest part was obtaining snails without paying a fortune. It’s possible to do it yourself and purge at home (such as my mate Danny did) but I just know I’d do it wrong. It seems very difficult to buy just a few. If you want 24 400g cans, no problem. Eventually I got some from Ocado and just enough to make this.
There’s three components: a stock, a butter, and the assembled porridge dish. As often the case with Heston home recipes they’re not difficult but they take a little while. And really… I’m not sure it’s worth it. The porridge is excellent, packed with flavour and full of savouriness. And the butter! It’s absolutely delicious and worth making to have in the freezer. Topped with the zingy fennel salad it’s a powerful combo. But the snails are just kind of there. Not horrible, not amazing, a little slightly-chewy things. But yeah, savoury porridge.
So give it a go, but you don’t really need snails.
For the stock:
- 150 g chicken wings
- 6 snails
- 1/2 onion peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 fennel bulb finely sliced
- 1 stick celery finely sliced
- 50 g button mushrooms finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- Bouquet garni of bay thyme and rosemary
For the butter:
- 12 g whole garlic cloves peeled
- 50 g button mushrooms
- ½ onion
- 100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 10 g Dijon mustard
- 2 g salt
- 50 g flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 20 g Parma ham
- 6 cooked snails
- 1 slice Parma ham
- fennel slices
For the porridge:
- 10 g porridge oats
- sherry vinegar
- walnut oil
For the stock:
- Put a pan of cold water with the chicken wings over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add the rest of the stock ingredients. Simmer very gently for an hour. Remove from the heat, leave to cool a little. Strain off the stock, reserving the liquor and the snails.
For the butter:
- Finely chop the mushrooms, onion and garlic. Heat half the butter in a frying pan and sweat for five minutes, until softened. Tip into a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, then purée until smooth.
- Tip on to a sheet of clingfilm and roll into a cylinder. Store in the fridge or freezer until required.
- Heat the stock in a pan over a high heat and once simmering, add the oats. Stir until all the liquid has been absorbed (this will only take a couple of minutes). Remove from the heat and beat in the snail butter and the snails. Season generously.
- Finely shred the ham. Slice the fennel as thinly as possible. Spoon the porridge on to plates and top with ham. Toss the fennel with vinegar and walnut oil to taste, season, place on porridge and serve.