A gastropod mollusk with a rough surface. Its color ranges from olive green to brownish gray or black.
Winkles are found along rocky shores where there is an abundance of algae. Lesser numbers also frequent sandy and muddy bottoms. They range in size from 2.5 to 4 cm (1 to 1 1/2”). Their thick solid shell is ridged in a spiral and usually has 5 to 7 non-protruding turns. The winkle can close up its shell tightly by pulling in its foot and closing off the opening by means of a dark operculum, or closeable cover.
Whelks are similar mollusks, though about five times larger than winkles.
Nutritional values per 100 g
Calories: 134; protein: 26.1 g; carbohydrates: 5 g; fat: 1.2 g.
Buy only live mollusks. Reject any that are already open: they are probably dead. If the shell if partly open, tap on it. If it closes, the mollusk is still showing signs of vitality.
They should have a fresh briny ocean scent. Avoid any with an unpleasant or ammonia-like smell. The shell should contain a clear liquid, except mussels which contain little or none at all, though the meat inside should be moist.
Never soak mollusks in fresh water; they’ll open up and die.
Place the live winkles in a container covered with a damp cloth. Do not immerse them in water or place them in an airtight container that would prevent them from breathing. Mollusks should be stored at a temperature between 0 and 4° C (32-40° F). In their shells they will keep for 3 days; shucked for 1 or 2 days.
Wash the winkles at least twice in cold water before any other preparation.
To remove the winkles easily from their shells, place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a knob of butter, 3 big spoonfuls of sea salt and a bay leaf. Turn on the heat, wait for the first sign of boiling and allow 2 to 3 minutes longer – no more. Take out one winkle to test for doneness; if it isn’t cooked enough it will resist, still clinging firmly to its shell. When the winkles are cooked, run them quickly under cold water, otherwise they will toughen. Just dip them into melted butter: simple and rustic, but really good!
And why not add a few oregano leaves to flavor the cooking water or use a flavorful court-bouillon? Try it!
Instead of just water, use equal amounts of water and white wine to which you’ve added a sprig of thyme or fennel.
Shell the winkles; chop them coarsely with mint and serve with a little vinaigrette (oil and lemon juice) as canapés on little squares of bread or toast.
You can always prepare winkles like escargots with garlic… using winkles instead of snails!
Serve winkles in their shells as an hors d’oeuvre with little picks to remove them and a well-seasoned tomato coulis.
Place 100 ml (6 tbsp.) white wine, 3 finely chopped shallots and the juice of half a lemon in a saucepan and reduce to three-quarters. Whisk in 100 g (6 tbsp.) butter and the edible parts of cooked winkles (begin with 500 g / 18 oz., shells on). Mix together into a creamy sauce, season with pepper and serve with grilled fish.
Hints & Tips