Snail Spaghetti – Recipe

By January 6, 2010 Recipes, snails 19 Comments

Talk about slow food! This weekend I cooked snails that Ludwig and I collected from Portland NSW, and they were delicious. Don’t get squeamish or revolt in disgust. Instead, keep an open mind and perhaps you too can make something tasty out of those garden snails eating those lovely basil leaves in your well-tended garden. Yes, it’s true. Your garden snails are edible delicacies that we have been enjoying for thousands of years. The French are perhaps the first people to come to mind when you think about edible snails, with their love of escargots cooked with garlic and herbs. But the French are certainly not the only people with a penchant for the little molluscs. The Italians, for instance, have been eating both land and sea snails since Roman times, and the Lebanese love them as well.

As a child, I knew that the best time to go looking for snails would be when the first good winter rain had arrived. Snails love heat and humidity, and that last bit of warmth combined with the rainfall seems to bring them from their hiding. A good place to look for them would be under sheltering stones, bushes or branches fallen of trees. A snail gathering expedition would yield bucket loads if we were lucky. The snails would then be kept in a well ventilated plastic knit sack (similar to what they sell lemons in these days) to purge for a couple of weeks before they are consumed. This purging process is necessary to ensure that the snails empty their digestive tract, especially of all harmful toxins they may have ingested. I washed these snails in several changes of cold water before plunging them for 5 minutes in boiling salted water. This initial boil kills the snails instantly, and also gets rid of the scum which rises to the surface. Draining the snails and boiling them again in fresh water with aromatics starts the real cooking process which goes on for around 2 hours. After that, the snails should be easily removable from their shells. I like to rinse them in fresh boiling water one more time before they are ready to be prepared for eating. Traditionally, the Lebanese stop cooking right there, and just eat the snails with tahini and Lebanese bread. So far, this to me is the best way of eating snails and I much prefer it to any fancy preparation.

Unfortunately, I had only picked a small amount of snails and I wanted the portions to stretch. This snail spaghetti worked a treat, and it drew on the French preparation which shares Lebanese flavour accents of garlic and parsley. In addition to that, I simply used verjuice (juice of unripe green grapes) and chilli. Verjuice is a staple in the Lebanese larder, especially in country towns that are too high in altitude to grow citrus trees. It has a good citrus tang and is slightly sweet. If you hate the idea of eating snails, rest assured that they are not slimy or rubbery. They don’t smell or taste foul. They actually taste similar to mussels and in the same way their texture, though slightly chewy, is lovely.


Snail Spaghetti Recipe

I will give this recipe with no measurements, since I assume you know how to cook pasta, and the rest of the ingredients are really a matter of taste. The snails of course, depend on availability.

Ingredients
First Preparation

  • Snails (Purged)
  • Salt
  • Lemon peel (wax free lemons)
  • Bay Leaves
  • Onion, halved
  • Peppercorns

For the Pasta

  • The above prepared snails
  • Garlic, finely chopped
  • Chilli, chopped
  • Verjuice
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Spaghetti
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Wash the snails well in several changes of cold water
  2. Plunge the snails in salted boiling water, removing any froth that rises to the surface
  3. After 5 minutes, drain the snails and boil in more salted water with the lemon peel, onions, bay leaves and peppercorns
  4. Continue cooking for 2 hours, removing any further froth
  5. When the snails are done they should be easy to remove from their shells. Drain the snails and rinse them in fresh boiled water

To make the pasta

  1. Remove the snails from the shells. If your snails are large, you might want to cut them in half. Drain well
  2. Boil your spaghetti in plenty of salted water. When cooked al dente, drain and keep aside
  3. Heat some olive oil and butter in a sauce pan and fry the garlic and chilli with salt
  4. When the garlic is brown, but before it burns, add the snails and fry them on high heat
  5. When the liquid seems to have reduced, add some verjuice on the sides of the sauce pan and allow it to reduce further
  6. Throw your pasta on top of the sauce and stir
  7. Take off the heat and add your chopped parsley and stir
  8. Season to taste and serve hot

19 Comments

  • Simon Food Favourites says:

    ummmmmmmmmmm, i think i'll have to pass on this one. they really look like the garden variety snails. but the rest of the dish i wouldn't mind. 🙂

  • Sara (Belly Rumbles) says:

    I have had snails a couple of times the garlic and butter way in french restaurants but this looks like a lovely dish to try. Love the fact you hunted down dinner, but would love to know more about the purging process. I had no idea that snails were big on the Lebanese menu, thanks so much for sharing, love learning 🙂

  • ivorypomegranate says:

    Whoaaaa…definitely intriguing! That second picture is a bit rough to look at when you think about cooking and eating them! Great post though 🙂 truly unique

  • Shanks says:

    Wow what a fascinating post – thanks for sharing, though I still wouldn't be confident in the purging process, or eating them lol!!

  • Taste of Beirut says:

    Fouad, that was one hell of a post! Very interesting, I would submit it to the New York Times, intitled " a Lebanese man cooks from his garden".
    The photo of the slimy creatures in the pot trying to get out made me think of my daughter deciding to cook the fish in her aquarium one day.

  • Editha says:

    Great post Fouad! Very confronting, makes you think about what and why we regard some things more than others, to be legitimate "food". We watched a show on SBS a few days ago, about a hoping-soon-to-be farmer…when cleaning his garden he actually squashed some snails he found with his boots…How sad…

  • Taste of Beirut says:

    Fouad
    fyi, I am giving away some freebies from Lebanon in case you are interested~

  • SydneyCider says:

    simon – you're missing out!

    sara – thanks. the purging process consists of fasting the snails in a wooden box for 5 to 6 days and washing them with water. You can feed them lettuce leaves or even bay leaves (for extra flavour), or nothing at all, which I think is not humane. the french then disgorge them by plunging them in salty water. have a read here: http://www.france-property-and-information.com/escargot-recipes-history.htm

    ivorypomegranate – thanks! I understand what you mean about it being rough. but in reality, all meat we consume has been killed for us. If we don't admit that to ourselves, it would be an unhealthy disconnect bordering on the hypocritical

    shanks – thanks 🙂 it's really not that hard. you will love it, and they are quite abundant, so don't miss out.

    joumana – thanks! hehehe. I didn't actually find them in my garden (which is almost non-existant). I found them on my Christmas holidays. You've had snails no?

    Editha – thanks. I agree. the moral debate lives on. I know what show you are talking about. Gourmet Farmer with Matthew Evans, the ex-editor of the Good Food Guide. I watched it too. I say, if he wants to live off the land, he should do his darn best, and respect the animals around him! Did the show remind you of River Cottage? A bit of a sedate version of River Cottage though…

  • Victor says:

    nice recipe – there are heaps of snails in our garden, but I cannot catch them, nor cook them and make an article about it. Simply because, the snail is a protected animal and there are heavy fines in my country for catching them. Sad, was looking forward to try your recipe…

  • Beth M says:

    That picture of the snails in the bowl (some trying to escape!) is pricesless… I absolutely love it!

  • Stephanie says:

    I really do appreciate that you mentioned in the comments that you still fed them. The idea of starvation (fasting seems like such a nice word for it) really made me sad 🙁

  • HAHA Dude… I’m loving this! I had escargots in Paris and quite enjoyed it. I like the pic of all the snails in the pot like that and the last pic – what a sad fate for these creatures..
    .-= Phuoc’n Delicious´s last blog ..Taking some time out =-.

  • Syrie says:

    Fascinating read. I watched something on the purging of snails on an episode of Wild foods a few months ago.
    .-= Syrie´s last blog ..Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms =-.

  • Dotty says:

    I’m Italian and my parents frequently cooked snails for us growing up, but haven’t cooked any in a few years. They used to keep them in a wooden bushel in our cold cellar for about a week. They enclosed the bushel with a mesh covering and would stick uncooked spaghetti into each of the little holes in the mesh. The snails would eat/suck(?) the spaghetti… if you pulled out a noodle, you’d see that it would be softened at the other end.

    At any rate, I remember being very young and taking handfuls of snails at a time and throwing them in my backyard to “set them free”. My papa caught me one day and he was not very pleased…

  • Jude says:

    Most interesting read. In my native South Africa, I would always order garlic snails at a popular Italian Restaurant. Nobody batted an eyelid at the thought of eating “snails” and they were delicious. Not just the garlic butter, but the texture of the snails too, and then the little bits of brown bread to soak up the leftover..
    And whilst this dish looks most tasty, and the article most interesting; in the same way I don’t slaughter my own meat (though my husband would and has done this), I think I’ll stick with ordering and enjoying them and let the pros go a huntin’. a purgin’ and a preparin’! 😉

  • […] my share. Over the years, I’ve made orange and blossom cordial from a neglected shrub, harvested snails for spaghetti, made loquat jelly from a randomly self-seeded tree, collected wild dandelions for hindbeh from a […]

  • Fouad says:

    Hey Jude. If you want snails, go out an get her. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I bet you get it all the time!
    Snails are a great source of protein and have very little carbon footprint, so we should be eating them really, but I agree, some people can’t reconcile with killing their own meat. Let Abrie do it for you I say 🙂

  • Ro says:

    I’m so going to try this! The little buggers will make a nice dish and I’ll be reducing my pest problem in my veg garden!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Marcus Web says:

    I’m in Melbourne, do you know a good place to get the snails (apart from the garden)?

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