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Summer Delight on the Half Shell

There would seem that there are two types of people in this world – those who are absolutely addicted to oysters, and those who aren’t. With these sensual shellfish featuring on our brand new Summer Menu at Catharina’s, we’re putting them under the spotlight this week.

The humble oyster has an interesting history, dating right back to Roman times. Believe it or not, these coveted shellfish of today actually used to be considered as peasant food, often being given away free of charge. Today, they represent the height of luxury when dining. Just what is it that makes them so popular? As an estate that is home to an award-winning winery, we can certainly relate to this opinion provided on Portfolio.com: “In brief: the taste. Just as the geography, soil, and climate of a vineyard give a distinct flavour to the resulting wine, oysters can be very salty or sweet, with notes of cucumber, melon, herbs, butter, flint, or copper, all depending on the water in which they grew.”

“I love that an oyster comes with its own ‘plate’”, says Executive Chef Garth Almazan of working with oysters in the Catharina’s kitchen. “They just beg to be prepared with simplicity, allowing its own freshness to shine through – the classic crushed black pepper, lemon and Tabasco cannot be beaten for flavour. My favourite way of serving a fresh oyster is to top it with with a Vietnamese dressing: a mixture of sesame oil, spring onion, pickled ginger, fresh ginger, chilli, rice wine vinegar, sugar, light soya sauce, fish sauce and lime. Both of these options are available on our brand new menu. Whichever way you choose to eat an oyster, however, there’s really only one wine to pair with them: lots of bubbly!”

If you’re a little squeamish about eating a raw oyster, Chef Garth recommends that you start with a cooked one instead, served with tasty flavours such as sautéed baby spinach and hollandaise. “From there, move on to a raw one, but make sure to add lots of lemon and Tabasco!”

Fun Facts about Oysters:

- Although it is possible for food oysters to produce pearls, they should not be confused with true pearl oysters, which are from a different shellfish family.

- There are 5 main varieties of edible oysters.

- 4 or 5 medium oysters supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus.

- The word “aphrodisiac” is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, who sprung from the sea on the shell of an oyster – giving oysters the reputation of having aphrodisiac properties.

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