Wednesday, 5 February 2014

In search of Britain’s forgotten seafood delicacy

Collecting ormers is a wintertime tradition in Guernsey 
What am I doing in the sea, turning over rocks, in a force 8 gale with near-freezing horizontal rain, in weird headgear?

Looking for green ormers, that’s what – and I found lots of them.

A type of abalone native to the British Isles, the ormer is one of our forgotten delicacies. (It’s the ear-shaped thing stuck to the rock, in case you’re wondering, and its name comes from the French oreille de mer.)

The French prize them highly and also call them the ‘truffles of the sea’, which is a bit more sexy than 'ear of the sea'. They’re a type of sea snail, and in Guernsey there’s an abundance of them. Cooked briefly (or lengthily – there’s no in between), they’re a sweet, meaty delight, as I discovered on an ormering trip to the island last weekend.

Back in the Sixties, Guernsey’s ormers were in danger of becoming extinct, but a 1970s ban on diving, combined with strict regulations on taking them (you can only go out for them on certain days from January to April, they must be over 8cm, you can’t freeze them…) means today they’re thriving.

After a couple of hours of ormering we ended up with a good sackful, then took them back to ormer king Peter Perrio’s house and got cooking.


Read about the revitalised tradition of ormering, along with my ormer hunt and cook-up, in a later issue of delicious. magazine…

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