Savoury sea urchins

We all have our favourite foods and there are plenty of foods which stir up all kinds of nostalgic feelings. Then there are the fun things to eat as well as foods to share. Then there are the challenging foods, those delicacies which are often worth getting to know but require a bit of perseverance and possibly a leap of faith. Caviar falls firmly into this category, as do snails. The sea urchin is also an unlikely species of shellfish which is both challenging and exciting as well as being abundant off our coastline.

The sea urchin is a delicacy in a number of countries, particularly France and Japan. A good many people comment, on seeing a fresh, spine coated, urchin that it looks just like a little hedgehog. In fact the name urchin is an old English name for hedgehog. As with a hedgehog, a degree of caution should be given to the sea urchin and its spikes as they break off easily and are difficult and painful to remove once embedded in the skin. The urchin offers up little meat, which comes in the form of five orange ovaries which are also called corals. The corals are good to eat raw; indeed they are a noted delicacy in Japanese cookery. Arguably urchins are more acceptable when cooked in Ireland and make a great addition to lightly cooked scrambled egg. Sea urchins must be extremely fresh and should be bought alive. Urchins should feel heavy for their size and have a very fresh sea smell.

To make a simple dish of sea urchin with scrambled egg:

Two organic eggs

20g butter

Two sea urchins, split in half and with the corals carefully removed.

Salt and pepper to season

One slice of toast

In a thick based pot, melt the butter without colour. Lightly whisk the eggs then add to the butter and stir with a wooden spoon until the eggs begin to set very lightly (denature ). Season the eggs with salt and pepper then spoon onto the toast. Gently warm the sea urchin corals under a grill with a small amount of butter and serve atop the freshly cooked scrambled eggs.

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