At a loose end on a lazy Sunday, I decided it was the perfect time for another experiment in local wild food. I remembered that when exploring Pudding Island a few months ago I’d seen a lot of turbo shells, which are apparently edible.
Mind made up, I headed down Portobello Rd until I reached the shore opposite the island. Unfortunately the tide didn’t seem to be all the way out, despite the fact that I’d totally checked before I came. Oh well, that’s not going to stop me. I didn’t come all this way for nothing!
I began scanning the shore, searching for the large snail-like creatures. Their proper name is Turbo smaragdus and they feed on algae and baby seaweed. They also didn’t appear to be here any more.
Finally I spotted a couple nestled in the mud and harvested them happily.
I kept searching, finding only a few more. How is it that there were so many when I wasn’t looking for them, but so few now I want to find them? I decided to paddle out towards the island to see if there was more over there.
I waded through the still water, driving frightened crabs before me as I went. I picked up a few more snails and found a cool purple sponge.
Over by the island I finally struck it lucky. A patch of seaweed was surrounded by the elusive snails, so I happily got to harvesting, only stopping when a current got up and disturbed the mud, blocking my view.
Fine, time to head back. I turned towards the shore only to see that Pudding Island’s treacherous tide was coming in with the force of a river. Not again! I struggled through the torrent, which now reached my waist, and finally dragged my leaden legs on to shore.
Once safely home, I checked out my haul. The bag limit for miscellaneous shellfish is 50, but I didn’t get anywhere near that amount.
Now I had to figure out what to do with them. Luckily I managed to find a blog post describing how to prepare the Australian variety of turbo, and a post elsewhere giving a recipe for turbo patties. It’s all coming together!
My first task was to boil them in salted water for five minutes to loosen them from the shell. Once finished, I tried to tap them on my cutting board to knock them out, but found an encouraging thumb to work much better and the coiled bodies slipped out readily. The protective cat’s eye (or operculum as a scientist would say) fell off easily.
The next step was to trim them, removing everything except the fleshy part at the foot. Apparently the gonad (funky curly thing at the end) is also edible, so I screwed up my courage and popped one into my mouth.
It was, um, it was…strongly flavoured. It probably wasn’t that bad, in fact it would probably be lovely prepared with the right kind of recipe, but my natural revulsion overcame all of that logic and I decided the cats could have that part.
I cut the remaining pieces in half and tossed them all into the food processor to mince.
Then I added some diced bacon, grated onion, crushed garlic, breadcrumbs, an egg, mixed herbs and salt and pepper to the mix. After that I shaped it into small patties and which were fried in butter.
The finished turbo patties were actually delicious – and all the more so because they didn’t look anything like snails! I only got six patties from my 21 shells though, which is a bit stingy for a couple of hours work and almost getting washed away. I don’t know if I’ll do this again, but I’m glad I tried it at least once.