To me, a Fruit de Mer is not complete with out a handful of steamed perrywinkles. I am not a big fan of the winkles steeped in vinegar, so todays recipe is a little left field but it is one that we find utterly delicious. Perrywinkle risotto, first let’s have a look at the humble winkle. Littorina littorea, the common periwinkle or winkle, is a species of small sea snail, with a dark and sometimes banded shell. It is native to the rocky shores of the northeastern Atlantic, including northern Spain, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Russia and was introduced to the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. The shell is sharp, pointed and contains six to seven whorls with fine wrinkles. The color varies from grey to grey-brown, often with dark spiral bands. The base of the columella is white. The white outer lip is sometimes checkered with brown patches. The inside of the shell is a chocolate-brown color. The shell is from 10 to 12 mm wide at maturity, 30-55 mm high and 16–38 mm long.
Common periwinkles were introduced to the Atlantic coast of North America in the mid-19th century. The first case was recorded in 1840 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and it is now a common mollusc from New Jersey northward to Newfoundland. It was accidentally introduced to the North American East Coast during the last few centuries and it is now exceptionally abundant on New England rocky shores. In Canada, their range extends to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. This species is also found on the West Coast of the United States, from Washington to California. L. littorea is now the most common marine snail along the North Atlantic coast. It has changed North Atlantic intertidal ecosystems by altering the distribution and abundance of algae on rocky shores and converting soft-sediment habitats to hard substrates, as well as displacing some native species.
The common periwinkle is mainly found on rocky shores in high or middle intertidal zones and sometimes in small tidealpools and muddy habitats such as estuaries. L. littorea reproduces annually with internal fertilisation of egg capsules that are then shed into the sea. The larvae develop in four to seven weeks. Females lay 10,000 to 100,000 eggs and because periwinkles can breed year round depending on the local climate and live five to ten years, the presence of this species has caused extensive damage. This species is believed to have been an important source of food since at least 7500 BC in Scotland, where it is still collected in huge quantities, mostly for export to the Continent. The official landings figures for Scotland show that over 2,000 tonnes of winkles are exported annually. This makes winkles the sixth most important shellfish harvested in Scotland in terms of tonnage, and seventh most important in terms of value. However, since actual harvests are probably twice reported levels, the species may actually be the fourth and sixth most important, respectively.
They are usually picked off the rocks by hand or caught in a drag net from a boat. They are mostly eaten in the coastal areas of Scotland and Ireland, where they are commonly referred to as winkles or in some areas buckies, willicks, or wilks. In Belgium, they are commonly called kreukels or caracoles. They are commonly sold in paper bags near beaches in Ireland and Scotland, boiled in their local seawater, with a pin attached to the bag to enable the extraction of the soft parts from the shell. The meat is high in protein (15%), omega-3 fatty acids and low in fat (1.4%).
First place winkles in a pan with salted water. Leave for 20 minutes then drain. Remove the winkles and place to one side. Next bring a pan of water, add the lemon zest and thyme and bring to the boil. Drop in the winkles for 3-4 minutes then remove using a slotted spoon reserving the liquor. Pick out the meat from the winkles and put aside. Add the fennel seeds, pepper, lemon juice and fish stock to the winkle liquor and keep on a very gentle simmer. In a large sauté pan add half of the butter and fry the off the rice until glistening. Start ladling in the stock and stirring gently, repeat until the rice is plump and al dente, check for seasoning. Do not over cook, because it will just taste like mush. In a separate frying pan heat the remaining butter and toss the winkle meat to warm through. To plate up place a couple of spoons of the risotto in the centre of the place and strew the winkles on the top and scatter with the parsley.
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