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Snails - how to cook fresh snails

Snails are an air-breathing gastropod mollusc, with a spiral shell. The French eat about 5 kilos of snails per head per year; these are generally of the breed 'helix pomatia', but the most common British snail 'helix aspersa' is also highly regarded.

If using snails you have gathered yourself, they will need to be 'purged' before you prepare them for eating, to rid them of any poisons or grit that might be in their system.

This is done by feeding them on lettuce (perhaps mixed with some fresh herbs, such as marjoram, thyme and parsley) for a period of five days - this will clear out their system. Then proceed as directed below.

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Sea Salt
Equal weights of carrot, celery and onion
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon (5ml) Whole Black Peppercorns


1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, capable of holding all the snails.
2. Tip the snails into the water, then quickly return them to the boil, before straining them and discarding the water.
3. Pull their flesh out of the shells, pulling-off their gut. Keep the shells – re-boil, if wishing to really get them clean – they can be re-boiled and used again, if (for example) you buy a tin.
4. Mix them with about 7 oz/210gr of Sea Salt and leave them to stand for about an hour – this will draw out excess moisture and rid them of any slime.
5. Rinse them under cold running water.
6. Bring about 3½ /2 litres of water to the boil with equal weights of carrot, celery and onion (all peeled and roughly-chopped, then add a few black peppercorns, a bay leaf and ½ a pint/200ml of dry White Wine.
7. Add the snails and simmer them, on a bare ripple, for about 2 hours.

They are now ready for your recipe.

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