This dish features snails. I’m very much aware that this dish will not get a million hits or dozens of comments but it’s a necessary post. If I am to accurately showcase Greek cuisine, I must feature all the traditional ingredients, including snails. My friend Deeba has yet to try snails but I think this dish will make even the most skeptical to want a taste.
Greek cuisine is about fresh, seasonal ingredients where nothing gets wasted. The consumption of snails fits into this equation. Drinking water in Greece is cherished as this land is arid. When I visit Greece in the summer, I’ll see one or two rainfalls and usually the weather clears-up in time to still squeeze in a swim or two.
Rainfall is a gift and welcome by Greeks, a gift. Part of that gift comes the awakening of snails from their dormancy. Worms and snails will crawl out of the ground during a rainfall and although worms are NOT part of our diet, snails certainly are.
Last year I picked some snails during Spring and I was the recipient of some sage snail advice from Maria of Organically Cooked. Maria is an ex-pat New Zealander that now lives in Hania, Crete with husband and two children.
This year, I waited until the fall to harvest my snails with the strategy of having meatier snails (and easier to pick out of their shells). Another blogger’s advice I remembered was to place the snails in room-temperature water and then bring them to a boil. This step would not cause the snails to suddenly retract into their shells when they hit boiling water.
Nuria of Spanish Recipes was right…place your snails in room-temperature water and then bring to a boil. I was able to easily pick the snail meat out of their shells!
Eating snails and snail recipes can be found all over Greece but they are enjoyed/consumed alot by Cretans. The only other ethnicity that I’m aware of that eats snails as much as Greeks are the French!
During my vacation in Greece, I met some old friends and made some new ones. One such new friend wasÂ Maryline of En Direct d’Athenes. Maryline has lived & worked in Athens for 10 years, she loves Greece, the Greek people and of course our cuisine. J’adore Maryline’s cooking!
Although in French, Maryline also offers recipes in Greek – her second language (speaks it better than me) and her dishes are true to their Greek nature with a French dame’s touch added. I dedicate this snails (escargots dish to Maryline).
This dish comes courtesy of one of Greece’s current wave of chefs/TV personas. Myrsini Lambraki hails from Irakleio, Crete, as does this snails dish. Her recipe comes from the book “365 Places, 365 Recipes” and seeing how this dish is from her region of birth, I assume it to be authentic.
Mirsini’s original dish calls for the use of fresh fava beans but I could not find any in the market at the time of making this dish. I opted for “gigantes” or giant butter beans…a favourite of most Greek households.
The Cretans love fennel (both the fronds and bulb) and I’ve been inserting fennel into more and more of my dishes. I do love it’s mild anise flavour. You may use dill if fennel or anise flavours aren’t your thing.
This dish was made possible in the fall with the appearance of artichokes in the market from lands with opposite growing cycles (below the equator).
Snails are delicious, they are healthy for you. They become a cholesterol-bomb when slathered in butter but not here. It’s good, extra-virgin Greek olive oil. Heart-healthy and delicious.
Snails With Gigantes Beans and Artichokes
500 gr. of Gigantes (dry butter beans)
8 small artichokes (halved), trimmed/cleaned
approx. 1 1/2Â cups of snails, washed & cleaned thoroughly
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 cup of fennel bulb, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 heaping Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh fennel fronds
salt and pepper to taste
- Place the beans in a pot with enough water to just cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for two minutes and drain (this step will stop you from getting gas).
- Put the beans back in pot along with the carrot, fennel, bay leaf and garlic and fill the pot with enough water to cover the contents. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for approx. 45 minutes or until the beans are soft (taste one). Take off the heat and reserve (including the liquid).
- Wash the snails and clean them very thoroughly. Place them in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Strain and repeat two-three times. Reserve.
- In a large pot, add your olive oil, onions and saute for 5-7 minutes over medium heat. Add the scallions, artichokes and tomato paste, wine, snails and fennel fronds, boiled vegetables and beans. Add the reserved liquid to just cover everything. Top-up with hot water if needed.
- Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until the artichokes are fork-tender.
- Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Divide and plate and serve warm or at room temperature with a garnish of fennel fronds and a lemon wedge.
NOTE: To eat snails, a toothpick works very well. Stick the toothpick deep into the snail’s opening and twist and pull out the snail meat. Don’t forget to suck the juices out of the shell!
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