A TRUE STORY of determination and entrepreneurship about setting up and running an edible snail farm in east Kent, is how retired biology teacher Helen Howard describes her unusual business based at her local allotment.
Helen, together with her daughter, is now selling her snails to Michelin-starred restaurants, schools, local restaurants and slow food fans around the UK. Apparently, zoos are a big customer of her company H & HR Escargots, with the slimy food devoured by a range of animals including skinks, tegu and monitor lizards.
Helen is infectiously enthusiastic about her unusual crop and she educating us about the delights of this very particular form of mollusc farming as one of the pleasures of the job.
She is now running a crowd funding campaign on the Indiegogo site to raise enough money to sponsor 50 mini snail farms to be donated to specially selected schools. Each pack contains six baby snails; their food and shelter and information about how to manage their care.
Depending on the size of the contribution, donors will be given a gift which might include hand-held magnifying glasses; snail greeting cards; be invited to meet the snails days and receive a copy of Helen’s book, Molluscs and Me, complete with recipes.
Should you tempted to cook up a snail dish, here is a recipe from Heston Blumenthal, famous throughout the world, gastronomic and otherwise, for his snail porridge dish as served at his multi-award winning pub, The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire.
Heston’s snail butter is a good subsitute for garlic butter, and can be enjoyed eaten smeared on the snails themselves, or melted on grilled steak!
25g whole garlic cloves, peeled
40g button mushrooms
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25g Dijon mustard
20g ground almonds
100g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
40g Parma ham
· Blanch and refresh the garlic in boiling water three to four times (this might seem excessive, but the garlic will be bitter and aggressive otherwise)
· Finely chop mushroom
· Peel and finely chop shallots
· Heat 50g butter in a frying pan and sweat the mushrooms and shallots for five to 10 minutes, until softened.
· Tip into a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, then purée until smooth. (This will take a few minutes because you’ll need to stop the machine intermittently, to scrape the sides)
· Once puréed, rub the mix through a fine-mesh sieve on to a sheet of cling-film and roll into a cylinder.
· Store in the fridge (it also stores well in the freezer). Then simply cut off segments of butter as and when required.