Giant African Land Snail
We admit that this has to be one of our strangest recipes yet and possibly not to everyones taste.
The size of a farm-worker's fist (fig.1), the African land snail has been a much favoured dish by the missionaries and their converts on the African continent as a Lenten supper. First introduced to Carrigaline in County Cork, in 1878 by Fr. Ignacius Mulcahy, the gastropod consequently had a devastating effect on the local eco-system, reducing gardens and parkland to wastelands within weeks.
During the 'Emergency' however, they became a reliable and popular substitute for lamb in stews, which helped manage their control to the point of extinction.
Today, Giant African Land Snails can be purchased from specialist retailers, and indeed bred domestically. They apparently make great pets, but this is discouraged if their purpose is for consumption.
Our recipe exploits the fact that snails cannot digest sugar but will eat it until it brings on anaphylactic shock as the sugar crystalizes in the veins and abdomen of the gastropod.
Firstly feed the snails on sugared almonds for 3-4 weeks. They are ferocious eaters and will go through about 5kg before shock sets in. They will slow down considerably (even for snails) before this happens. One could also just crack them open with a brick, but we want to keep the shell intact.
Now place them in a freezer for about 45 mins.
Remove and slice into 1.5mm – 2mm slivers, shell and all. (You will need a circular tile cutter or a jeweller's fret saw for this.)
Lay the frozen slices in baking trays, and pour over a solution of 1 part salt & 2 parts lime juice to 3 parts water. This removes the slime.
Heat your oven to about 175ºC.
Carefully rinse the slices several times with fresh water, finally leaving a small amount behind in each tray. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven to steam for an hour or so. The body (foot) of the snail will shrink slightly in the process. Leave to cool to room temperature.
Normally in most land snail recipes, the guts and stomach are dicarded into a neighbours' garden, but in this instance, the four week diet of sugared almonds produce within the snails vital organs, a sweet paste, not unlike marzipan.
Arrange 3 slices on each plate, as in fig. 2 and remove the coiled shell leaving the meat in place (this can be fiddly). Make a coulis by reducing over a brisk heat 1 cup of fresh pomegranate juice, thinly diced shallots and a little honey. Sprinkle the snail with whole pomegranate seeds and pour over a little of the coulis. Serve at room teperature.