Huitres Marinees

An exquisitely simple first course, Huitres Marinees (weetr’ mah-ree-nay) is a delectable combination of fresh oysters, white wine, lemon juice and herbs, served cold. It makes an elegant start to a dinner party, although, since it is quite rich and filling, it is best followed by a light main course. Serve Huitres Marinees with small squares of brown bread and butter and a well-chilled white Chablis wine. Canned oysters may be substituted for fresh, if the latter are not readily available.

16 fresh oysters

6 fl. oz. dry white wine

2 fl. oz. olive oil

2 fl. oz. lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried chervil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1 garlic clove, crushed

First, prepare the marinade. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients, stirring with a fork or spoon to blend well. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, detach the oysters from their shells and place them in a medium-sized saucepan. Discard the shells.

Add the marinade to the oysters and place the pan over moderate heat. Bring the liquid to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the oysters and liquid to a medium-sized serving bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Serve the oysters cold, in their marinade.

Humbugs

Humbugs, called taffies in the United States, are cushion-shaped boiled sweets. The characteristic satiny finish is achieved by ‘pulling’ the sugar mixture. The sweet mixture is boiled to the correct temperature {you must use a sugar thermometer) and then is poured on to a marble slab. It is allowed to cool slightly and then worked, first with an oiled palette knife or candy scraper, and then with oiled hands, until it is opaque but satiny and firm but pliant. This may take up to

20 minutes, so the pulling and twisting requires strong arms! A less tiring way is to have a large toffee or candy hook fixed at a convenient height on a wall in the kitchen. The sugar mixture is pulled into-a rope and thrown on to the oiled hook. As the mixture falls the ends are pulled, gathered and thrown at the hook again. This is repeated until the mixture becomes smooth and shiny.

2 teaspoons flavourless cooking oil

1 lb. brown sugar

1½ oz. butter

5 fl. oz. water

1 tablespoon golden syrup

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

4 drops oil of peppermint

1 to

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Oil the marble slab with the 2 teaspoons of oil.

In a large saucepan, mix the sugar, butter, water, syrup and cream of tartar over low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to moderately high. Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and boil the mixture, without stirring, until it reaches 270 °F on a sugar thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the sugar mixture on to the marble slab. Allow it to cool for about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the top with the oil of peppermint and mix it in with a palette knife. Work the mixture with the palette knife until it is cool enough to handle.

Oil your hands. Gather up the sugar mixture and twist it between your hands to make a rope about 18 to 20-inches long. Fold it back on itself and pull and twist again. Continue until the mixture is opaque, elastic and shiny.

Wipe the top of the marble slab and dust it with the icing sugar.

Form the sugar mixture into an egg shape. Flatten the narrow end and hold it in one hand while you pull, away with the other hand to make a long rope about ½ to 1-inch thick. Allow the rope to fall in folds on to the dusted slab. Using a pair of well-oiled scissors, cut the rope into J to 1-inch lengths. Half twist the rope after each cut to give the humbugs the correct shape. Let the humbugs cool completely before wrapping them individually in aluminium foil, polythene or greaseproof or waxed paper. Store in an airtight jar.

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