Now this recipe won’t be to everyone’s taste. Caracoles en escabeche are snails cooked in a spicy sauce. I first had these at a lovely little bar in Playa Honda in Lanzarote – and have been craving them ever since. It has taken me some time to find anything remotely similar…. but this one is almost there. Guess I need a holiday in Lanzarote to go accost the chef for his escabeche recipe. In the meantime… enjoy!
Before we get on with the recipe… I must stress that you shouldn’t use your common old garden snails unless you absolutely know what snails are safe to eat. Don’t ask me… I’m a web designer not a snail expert. Buy some from a shop, if you’re unsure at all. When we lived in Lanzarote, we used to see the locals picking them – so I would have given those a try. I haven’t seen them doing it here in Almeria though – but a nearby supermarket (Mercadona) sells them anyway… so it’s not a problem. I use frozen – but as with everything… fresh is usually better.
Ingredients for caracoles en escabeche (serves 3 to 4)
- Kilo of fresh snails… or defrosted ones
- 2 or 3 thick slices of day old baguette, or similar bread – crusts removed
- 1 medium onion – finely diced
- 1 green pepper – finely diced
- 3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped. You can remove the skins if you like… but I’m too lazy for that. Even easier is to just use a small tin of chopped tomatoes.
- 3 to 4 cloves of garlic – finely sliced
- Half a teaspoon of smoky paprika
- Quarter teaspoon of crushed chillies (optional)
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Half a glass of white wine (plus the rest of the bottle for you)
- A couple of hearty glugs of olive oil
- Bay leaf (whole)
- Pinch of salt
Method for caracoles en escabeche
- First of all you want to make sure your snails are clean so give them a good rub in plenty of cold running water
- Now pop them in a large saucepan with enough water to cover the shells wih an extra inch or two for good measure
- Bring to the boil
- Once boiling, turn the heat down so it’s halfway between a boil and a simmer… bubbling but not crazily
- Keep skimming off any froth from the top – and keep going until no more froth appears
- Drain the snails and set them to one side, reserving half a mug of the water in case it’s needed later on.
- Whilst your snails are frothing… you can be getting on with the next bit, so…
- In a cazuela, or casserole dish, pour the olive oil and heat to medium/high heat
- Crumble the bread into chunks and fry it with the garlic in the oil
- Once the bread is golden – remove that and the garlic and set to one side
- Keep as much of the oil in the pan as you can, and turn the heat down
- Chuck in the onions and pepper and sweat slowly until they are translucent
- Now chuck in the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and vino and cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes
- Whilst that is simmering – grind the garlicky bread in a pestle and mortar (or improvise with a bowl and the back of a wooden spoon)
- Once almost ground, add the nutmeg, paprika and chillies (if using them) to the ground mixture and mash for a little longer until well mixed
- Chuck that mixture, and the snails, into the tomato/onion/pepper sauce in your pan and stir well. Watch you don’t crush the shells
- Add a little water from the snails cooking sauce if it’s looking a bit dry
- Cook through for a couple of minutes more, and then serve hot
- Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving
Serve these with cocktails sticks or snail prongs, so that you can remove them from their shells as you eat them. Make sure you have plenty of fresh bread to mop up that sauce too.