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The food of love

Posted by: Richard Abbey
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With Valentine’s Day arriving on 14 February, we thought we’d plan the perfect date meal. First up, here’s our choice to start…


Portland pearl oysters au naturel with all the trimmings


There are two types of oyster eaten in the UK – the Pacific (rock) oyster, available all year round, and the Native (or flat) oyster, which can only be eaten between 1 September and 30 April.

Oysters are bi-valve filter feeders and are usually cultivated and farmed in estuaries or sheltered waters. Devon and Dorset has some of the best conditions for shellfish cultivation and therefore produce some of the best grade oysters available.

Oysters may be eaten raw or cooked and have the ‘taste of the sea’ with a smooth fleshy texture. They are rich in Omega 3, copper, vitamin B12 and zinc. Zinc is used in the production of testosterone, which may explain why they are considered an aphrodisiac!



6 oysters (Pacific or Native)

1 shallot

200ml red wine vinegar

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Tabasco sauce (optional)

Juice of 1 lemon (optional)



Open oysters and arrange in a suitable dish, trying to keep them as upright as possible to avoid losing their liquid

Garnish with salad and lemon wedges

Serve with either a squeeze of lemon, a splash of Tabasco or shallot vinaigrette (see below)


To make the shallot vinaigrette:

To make the vinaigrette, put the red wine vinegar into a sealable container. Finely dice the shallot, chop the bay leaf and strip the leaves from the sprig of thyme

Add the diced shallot, bay leaf, thyme leaves and the remaining sprig of thyme to the vinegar. Add Tabasco to taste

Ideally, keep the vinaigrette in a fridge for a day to infuse. It may be used straight away or kept for up to a week chilled


This recipe is taken from Nigel Bloxham’s Crab House Café, out now.