Dear Chef,
Just returned from our first trip to Majorca and noticed snails seem to be quite popular. I never got round to trying them – could you tell me how I can expect my Majorcan snails to be served should we return.

Gerald Cooke. Kentish Town. London

‘Caracoles' (snails) are popular in Majorca and in most local restaurants you will normally find somebody sitting down and working their way through a huge plateful of them. I used to eat them occasionally in France years ago, just 6 or 8 snails, always nicely presented in a little dish with garlic butter. The first time I ordered them in Majorca I couldn't believe it, as there must have been at least 50 snails all piled up in an earthenware dish. Give me quality over quantity anytime.

For most, eating snails is a curious custom but they have certainly been eaten since Roman times when a certain Fulvius Lupinus is credited with having perfected a method of fattening them. I have always been told that the best snails are found in vineyards and feed on grape leaves.

Majorcan snails are normally prepared in the following way: first they are soaked in a little salted water with vinegar and flour for about one hour to clean, ridding them of any grit and waste matter.

They are then cleaned again in fresh water several times, changing the water every time.
To cook they are placed in a saucepan, covered with cold, seasoned water and placed over a gentle heat. They should be brought slowly to the boil and the scum that rises to the surface should be removed. Some roughly chopped onion and a little red Chile pepper is added along with a bouquet of fresh herbs containing, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and fresh fennel.

They are then simmered for about one to one and a half–hours. The snails are then drained and served boiling hot with a garlicky mayonnaise called ”ali–oli”.