Well these past few days have been quite the treat when it comes to cuisine. Anyone who is used to me knows I love food from all over the world and cook lots of food from around the globe, recipes I’ve picked up on my travels (I don’t do package, resort based holidays I like to get among the locals) or from friends from overseas whose home cooking I’ve had the pleasure of sampling.
So, when I’m in London I’m obviously spoiled for choice when it comes to international cuisine, there are restaurants and food vendors from all of the corners of the Earth here and tonight I really want to eat Nigerian food, specifically giant African snails.
I love peppered snail, usually a couple of snails cooked in a light hot peppery sauce made with onions, tomatoes and fiery hot scotch bonnet peppers. I love the zing and freshness and the burn of these peppers and being used to eating spicy food I cope well for a non-native and I do cook a fair few Nigerian dishes using these peppers. Make no mistake these peppers are hot check them out on the chilli scale here.
Nick’s made us a reservation for 9pm where we’re going to meet up with a couple of old friends and has checked that snails are on the menu. I can barely wait I’m salivating, I don’t get to eat them very often. I like them because I love the taste but also they are more or less pure muscle so no fat and they are very much like a lamb heart kind of consistency but with a distinctive flavour. I have had some in the past which have tasted earthy but generally they don’t at all.
Usually I’d have snail as a starter but tonight I’m planning on a double helping with a huge salad as my main and only course.
Dining Nigerian style is not a rushed affair, usually there is a long wait for the meal in most places I’ve been and I don’t mind as it signifies that fresh prep is going on rather than a quick microwave warm up. I’ve never been rushed out of a Nigerian restaurant in my life, pretty much like Greek Island dining off season where you are positively encouraged to stay for the night. However the downside of this can be that your table booking is not quite as you scheduled so we don’t yet have plans for afterwards in case we are still waiting for our table at midnight.
It’s usually a very social affair, with diners chatting to one another, regulars often bumping into friends. So I’m hugely looking forward to it and have no doubt that I’ll get to have some good conversation and meet some interesting characters. Something I really miss about not living in London, the multi-culturalism, I just love it.
So back to snails, if you’re interested in seeing something about how they are prepped I just found this blog post which shows them being sourced and prepared. I’ve seen them de-slimed with lime juice before but here they use alum.
This is an interesting little article about the pest they are to Floridian farmers and how eating them like Africans (and me!) might be an option.
I had a friend who used to have a couple in a tank as pets and they bred like crazy, when I suggested she sell them to a restaurant she was horrified but to be fair I didn’t see them making very interesting pets although their shells can be extremely pretty. If they are a pest then why not eat them rather than just pointlessly culling them? Apols to any veggies, I’m a carnie and although I’m rapidly cutting down the amount of meat I eat I doubt it will ever be removed altogether.
In case you’re wondering Nick spent quite a few years growing up in West Africa so he’s as open to the idea of eating giant snails as I am.