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Oysters with mignonette sauce

Do you like oysters? For me it was love at first sight. Or even love before first sight. People seem to eat oysters all the time in books and I was sure I was going to do the same. The sound of the word 'oyster', together with a somewhat vague idea of what an oyster could be, always resulted in serious oyster cravings. I saw myself enjoying an oyster platter and a bottle of fine champagne in a noisy Parisian restaurant. Do I need to mention that I was about 11 at the time?

I have a history of craving the unknown and it hasn't always been a success path. The same crazy feeling responsible for my love towards oysters, made me think that roasted chestnuts and I were made for each other. My first time with chestnuts turned out to be a bitter disapointment - they tasted like potatoes. Don't get me wrong, I love potatoes with all my heart. But I excpected something more from chestnuts. I like chestnuts, but it's a relationship without fireworks.

Oysters, however, that's another story. I have instantly fallen in love with their delicate texture and the briny taste of the sea. I usually eat them simple, with a dash of lemon juice. The mignonette sauce is a traditional condiment for oysters, made of shallots, vinegar and black pepper. Try a platter of oysters with mignonette, a fresh loaf of bread and champagne (prosecco or cava will do) or beer. It's better than chestnuts and better than potatoes.

Recipe: Oysters with mignonette sauce

Serves: 2 (or one eager oyster lover)
Ingredients
  • 6 fresh oysters
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup apple vinegar
  • one tsp frehs thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
Method
  • Combine all the ingredients of the sauce and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.
  • Shuck the oysters and place on ice.
  • Serve with mignonette sauce and lemon wedges.

Oyster & Porter House

Oysters and beer? Some might find it rebellious and disrespectful, but it's not even a new idea. The tradition of pairing dark beer and oysters comes from 18th century, when oysters were a cheap and popular snack in taverns, mainly eaten by the working class. In the early 20th century, most of oyster beds were destroyed. The scarsity increased prices and oysters became an expensive delicacy, served with a glass of champagne instead of a pint of beer.

London’s Oyster & Porter House serves both oysters and beer. It is situated right next to the Borough Market, so the culinary competition is enormous. It’s a proper oyster bar, with a selection from France and Ireland, as well as Spain, Japan and New Orleans. The food menu changes daily, depending on availability of fresh fish and seafood. You can try Cornish crab, shell-on Atlantic prawns or a delicious beef, Guinness and oyster pie. The traditionalists, who only pair oysters with bubbles, shouldn't be disappointed - there's a wine and champagne list available.

I can now officially confirm that dark beer and oysters are a match made in heaven, especially if it’s an oyster stout we’re talking about. Some modern oyster stouts are simply beers that go well with oysters, but some breweries remain faithful to the tradition and actually add a handful of oysters to the barrel.

A half dozen of oysters and a glass of stout always make a perfect lunch.

Oyster & Porter House, The Wright Brothers

11 Stoney Street, Borough Market

London