It’s a beautiful sunny March day and I’m driving past the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay to pick some foraged ingredients for the folowing day’s meal.
I spot forager Mark Williams carefully clambering among the rock pools leading a small master class on coastal foraging. He is intently searching for the small umami bomb that is Pepper Dulse.
Whilst stopping to say hello, Mark points out all the limpets firmly attached to the rocks and asks if I’d ever cooked them before… evidently he had given it a go once but found that they were very tough and rubbery. I on the other hand, had never thought about it and began to wonder why I hadn’t seen them on menus. I immediately took this to be a challenge.
Removing them from the rocks however, is not as easy as you would think… Firstly you have to slowly sneak up on them and then briskly give them a firm knock with the heel of your shoe or a small hand sized rock. The key is not to disturb them; if you do they will go into lock down – attaching themselves very firmly to the rock, clinging on for dear life and with absolutely no chance of removing them without damaging the shells. This makes perfect sense when you find out that limpets’ teeth are made up of the strongest material known to man!
I initially manage to sneak up on and pick ten complacent limpets to experiment. However, unfortunately for the limpets, I kick in to hunter-gatherer mode, excitedly thinking that if I can just get a few more, perhaps they could end up as a special addition to tomorrow’s dinner?
Back at the farmhouse where our kitchen is based, I kick off my suede, ‘city boy’ shoes and put on my faithful walking boots. Back to the shore it is!
Surprisingly, I manage to get into a good system of sneaking around and knocking the little limpits from their rocks on the shores of Islay and eventually forage enough to feed the twelve we have comeing to eat. My mind is a race on what could be the best techniques to prepare these molluscs to meet their maker. I arrive back quickly at the farmhouse, excited by the prospect of working with a new ingredient.