Escargot à la Kelvin

Text: Craig Grozier, first published by The Botanist

Following a recent battle with our new Gastropod friends, I wanted to write a little recipe on wild foraged snails I'd picked around Glasgow - a fine delicacy that is often overlooked on our home turf.

Yes, you read correctly, you can eat wild Scottish snails, and yes, you can eat the ones in your garden, the common brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum)!

Last year, friend and forager Mark Williams and I noticed these rather large molluscs on a wall near the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, a spot close to the perfect soggy environment of the banks of the river Kelvin. I vowed one day to go back and collect them. One year later, on a typical drizzly Sunday afternoon I find myself delicately picking large, juicy snails from the same wall and placing them into a large white bucket – all set up to be their new home for the next few days. This escapade however managed to gather a bit of attention from passing families, the parents nervously dragging they're children away from the strange bearded man picking snails from the wall... perhaps assuming I was lost, a stray Frenchman looking for his dinner!

So here's a quick recipe for your very own Escargot a la Kelvin:

1.     Collect yours snails from a garden or large wall near you. You will find that they usually seek shelter, so can often be found under a small overhang on a wall.

2.     Place them in a large container. Firstly you will need to feed them some nice tasty things. This is for two important reasons: 1. In case they've been eating plants that don't agree with us humans and 2. to fatten them up! So put some carrots and herbs, salad leaves or onions (generally any nice veg or salad ingredients) into the container. Don’t forget to add a small, shallow bowl of water - not too deep but something they can drink from.

3.     Cover them very securely with muslin cloth or something breathable. Each day for the next four or five days you'll need to remove them from the container, clean it out and then replace them.

4.     On day five remove the food, now you have to purge (or starve) them for three days, every day cleaning them as before.

5.     On day 8, when purged, its time to begin preparing them to eat. After washing them thoroughly, place them in a pot and carefully pour over boiling water. Leave for one minute. Next, drain the pot, pop them out of their shells and snip off the intestinal sack.

6.     Now place them in a pot with cold water, wild garlic stalks (reserve the leaves to make a butter), dried meadowsweet a very large pinch of Hebridean sea salt and bring them to a low simmer, braise them in this for one and a half hours or until tender.

7.     Warm the wild garlic butter leaves and some butter (enough to coat the snails) in a pan, adding the tender snails, heat them through.

8.     Serve with a big wedge of sourdough bread and a large glass of your preferred poison.

Bonnie appetite!

Craig is a frequent collaborator at EFS. Why not coming to his upcoming dinner series 'SpontanScran', a foray into the world of pairing food with wild fermented beers.