We stayed in an amazing hotel called Ballymaloe, which has been run by TV chef, Rachel Allen’s family for decades. We were well fed with great food though could not stop feeling peckish looking at the freshly collected winkles.
We just HAD TO eat them!
The lady at the reception told us we could not have a kettle in the room so we could not cook them by boiling. We pretended we would like to have tea in the bedroom but were told there was no kitchen in our building- so blanching/poaching could not happen either.
Luckily, as hotel guests staying for a wedding, there was at least one allowable heat source- an iron!
Upside down iron = Hot plate for searing winkles? We decided to have an experiment….
Winkles have amazing ability to stay alive out of water for a long period- several days in a damp environment. Naturally, they have a ‘disc’ which ‘seals’ the shell and keeps the moisture in, until the next high tide comes in.
Searing the winkles over a hot iron, with the disc side up means that we actually cooked the winkles in their own broth. With no seasoning at all, the winkles carried an amazing smell of the sea. They had a natural sweetness and were full of flavour. What a delightful discovery!
We were only going to have one winkle each, just in case we got food poisoning and missed the wedding ceremony the next day. But they tasted so fantastic that we could not stop! In order to find the freshest winkles of the lot to ‘cook’, we even started a winkle fight! It was entertaining and fascinating!
After the trip, we tried cooking winkles by boiling, steaming and baking. The baked (4 mins) ones turned out to be the tastiest as they, like searing on an iron, intensified the natural flavour of winkles by cooking them in their own juice. We could not recommend them more!