Sideplates: Oysters

Oysters were once a staple food for Scotland's poor and evidence found at archaeological sites has suggested humans have consumed them for at least 6,000 years.

Scottish cultivated oysters can be consumed all year round, but are particularly good in winter, when they are larger in size. Much has been written about their qualities as an aphrodisiac, which has some merits due to their high content of zinc (which controls progesterone levels), rare amino acids and dopamine.

Hangtown Fry

Serves one

(This was the favourite meal of California gold miners who had struck it rich in the mid 1800s, it cost $6 – a fortune, then)

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3 raw oysters; 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk or cream; breading mixture of dry bread and cracker crumbs; 2 rashers bacon; 2 eggs, beaten

Dip the oysters in the egg and milk mixture, and then the crumbs and pan-fry in a little vegetable oil for a minute each side. Meanwhile cook the bacon till crisp in another frying pan. Arrange them in the pan, nearly together (like drunken rail road tracks). Pour over a little of the beaten egg mixture, then place the oysters on top. Add the rest of the beaten egg to the pan and cook until just set. Flip over either side of the omelette and invert on to a plate to serve.

Oyster Stew

Serves four

1 shallot, minced; 1 tbsp vermouth; 12 oysters, shucked, liquor reserved; 100ml double cream; 100ml milk; 50g butter; salt and cayenne pepper

Saut the shallot in the vermouth and a little oil for two minutes till soft. Add the oysters with their juice and cook gently until the edges just begin to curl. Add the remaining ingredients and heat slowly, but do not boil. Serve with crusty bread