POACHED OYSTERS WITH SMOKED SALMON,
CUCUMBER AND CHIVES
Rowley Leigh wanted Kensington Place to be an English version of the
French brasserie, and took the chance to open a fish shop at the side
of the restaurant, rather as the French display rows of briny oysters.
The Kensington Place Fish Shop treats fish with respect. Just one or a
few specimens of each species are displayed on the ice, where you can
gaze at a perfect turbot or some silver-bright herrings. Some fillets
are kept carefully in chilled drawers below the slab and the rest of
the fish are kept whole in a walk-in refrigerator. Chefs work here both
preparing the fish and cooking dishes, such as fish soup and seared
tuna with ginger and soy sauce. The manager, Cohn Westal, gets up at
2.30a.m. in order to get to Billingsate early to snap up the pick of
Serves 4 as a starter
20 rock oysters
150g sliced smoked salmon
100g unsalted butter
50ml double cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful of chopped fresh chives
Open the oysters, reserving the liquor
and removing the meat. Rinse the rounded halves of the shells and put
them on a large serving dish in a warm oven.
Cut the smoked salmon into very thin
strips. Cut the cucumber flesh into matchsticks.
Melt a small knob of the butter in a
frying pan and quickly toss the cucumber in it. Remove from the heat
and put the smoked salmon in the pan, tossing the two together very
briefly to mix but without cooking the salmon. Put a small bundle of
the mixture in each shell.
Put the oyster liquor in a wide, shallow
saucepan. Bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, put the oysters in and
simmer for less than a minute. Remove the oysters and put one in each
of the rounded half-shells. Bring the liquid back to the boil and
reduce down to about 2 tbsp. Add the cream and reduce until the sauce
starts to thicken.
Cut the rest of the butter into cubes (it
has to be quite cold: if the butter melts too fast the sauce could
separate), and whisk into the sauce. Add plenty of black pepper to the
emulsified sauce and spoon over each oyster. Sprinkle over lots of
chopped chives and serve as a luxurious starter.
Use a sturdy oyster knife, preferably one
with a guard. Fold a kitchen cloth into a thick square and place in the
left hand. Secure the oyster in the cloth with the flat side of the
shell uppermost and the hinged, thicker end towards you.
Push the oyster knife at a 45-degree
angle in at the hinge: the knife will penetrate easily if you are in
the right place. Rotate the knife a quarter turn back and forth,
increasing pressure as you do so, until, with a little plop, the
pressure is released and the oyster opens.
Slide the knife along the top of the
oyster and remove the top shell. If cooking the oyster, slip the knife
under it and cut the muscle. Collect them in a small bowl in their
juice. Covered in cling film and well refrigerated, they will keep for
a day or two in this condition.