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Oysters, Oyster Mornay and Cockle Chowder

Essex Mobile Kitchen dish ...
Make sure you source top quality fresh oysters. If any of the oysters are dry inside when they are shucked, discard them. Shucking oysters can be dangerous so make sure you use a thick tea-towel to hold the oyster and open them using a short-bladed knife from the narrow end of the shell.


  • Ingredients for the oyster mornay

  • 24 oysters, shucked and turned presentation side up in the shell

  • 60g (2½oz) unsalted butter

  • 2 tbsp plain flour

  • 500ml (18floz) whole milk

  • 110g (4oz) strong cheddar cheese, grated

  • 2 tbsp curly parsley, finely chopped

  • Ingredients for the traditional oysters

  • as many oysters as you think you can stomach (native or rock oysters)

  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 5 tbsp shallots, finely chopped

  • Tabasco sauce

  • Worcester sauce

  • 1 lemon cut into wedges

  • bag of ice for the platter

  • Ingredients for the Essex cockle chowder

  • 400g (14oz) cooked picked cockles or 1kg/2lb2oz raw cockles in the shell

  • 25g (1oz) unsalted butter

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon, shredded fine

  • 1 large onion, finely diced

  • 250ml (9floz) dry white wine

  • 3 floury potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 500m l(18floz) milk

  • 2 tbsp chopped curly parsley

  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

  • 2 tbsp double cream


  • Method for the oyster mornay:

  • 1.

    Preheat the grill to high.

  • 2.

    Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook out for a few minutes.

  • 3.

    Stir in the milk until a thick white sauce is made.

  • 4.

    Stir in half the cheese and check the seasoning.

  • 5.

    Place the oysters in rows in a grill pan, place a spoonful of cheese sauce onto each oyster, sprinkle the remaining cheese onto the top.

  • 6.

    Grill until golden.

  • 7.

    Scatter with parsley sprinkles and serve.

  • Method for the traditional oysters:

  • 1.

    Shuck the oysters, keeping all the juices inside.

  • 2.

    Whisk the red wine vinegar and shallots together in a ramekin and set aside for 5 minutes to infuse.

  • 3.

    Take a large dish and cover in crushed ice. This will help hold the oysters steady and also keep them cool.

  • 4.

    Arrange the oysters on the ice and present with the ramekin of red wine vinegar and shallots, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce and lemon wedges.

  • Method for the Essex cockle chowder:

  • 1.

    In a big saucepan, heat the butter and the olive oil, add the bacon and cook until coloured.

  • 2.

    Add the onion and sweat until transparent, this will take about 5 minutes and set aside.

  • 3.

    If using raw cockles wash the cockles well, you could place them in a bowl of water, with some bran or porridge oats for a few hours and they will clean themselves inside and out – either way, rinse them thoroughly.

  • 4.

    Add the wine to the pan and bring to a rolling boil.

  • 5.

    Add the cockles and boil for a few minutes.

  • 6.

    You’ll know when the cockles are cooked as the shells will open.

  • 7.

    Lift out the cockles using a slotted spoon and set aside to cool, retaining the cooking liquor.

  • 8.

    Pick the cockles from the shells discarding any that have not opened.

  • 9.

    If using ready cooked, simply add the wine to the pan and reduce by half.

  • 10.

    Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, part-boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes until just soft.

  • 11.

    Strain and set aside.

  • 12.

    Place the cockle/bacon juice in a sauce pan, bring to a simmer and add the milk and the potatoes.

  • 13.

    Simmer until the potatoes just start to disintegrate.

  • 14.

    Add the cooked cockles, parsley, thyme and cream.

  • 15.

    Cook for a couple of minutes, don’t overcook the cockles.

  • 16.

    Season to taste with the sea salt flakes and ground white pepper.

  • 17.

    Serve with a hunk of sour dough bread and butter.

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