Friday, July 10, 2009

Rigmarole of Slimy Hermaphrodites

The giant Ghana snail, Achatina achatina, also known as the giant tiger land snail, is a species of snail native to the forests of Ghana, Africa. They are prized for their large size, distinct markings, and lack of availability. They also are hermaphrodites, having male and female sex organs.

So the final and most important question is, how did it taste? Well it didn't, exactly. Like whelks, boulets, garden snails and pretty much the rest of the edible gastropodia, there's not a chance that any evanescent snailish essence could survive the rigmarole of desliming and rendering edible - but that's not the point. The remaining texture was utterly unlike anything else I've ever put in my mouth. Abi's hot pepper sauce was a gently brewed assault of flavours that would have converted a well-worn espadrille into a worthwhile meal. In fact I'll go on record saying that I'm prepared to eat a McDonald's hashbrown thingy if Abi's sauce is to hand, but the snail's foot adds a textural matrix somewhere between an undercooked artichoke heart and the cartilage from a premiership footballer's knee - with just a tad more disquieting crunch.
Did I enjoy it? Hell yes. It's rare to find a totally new combination of flavour and texture and it was privilege to be shown how to prepare it properly. Will I be knocking up land snail at my next dinner party? I'm ashamed to say, no. I'm not sure I could find anyone to share it, but do try Abi's sauce with a less challenging protein - I did chicken thighs last night - and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Tim Hayward and Shehani Fernando

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