Tag: winkles

Potted Winkles

Here are some recipes for your steamed winkles including my favourite, Potted Winkles.  As a guide to quantities, one large mug will contain about 95 winkles, which will weigh about 450g. Once these are cooked and de-shelled you’ll be left with about 80g of winkle meat.

Potted Winkles (Serves 4)

250g pack of unsalted butter
4 mugs of winkles (1.8kg in their shells or 320g of winkle meat)
1 bay leaf or a sprig of bog myrtle
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg/mace or powdered hogweed seed
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or chopped water pepper if you can find it
juice ½ lemon (2 tablespoons) or crab apple verjus.

Purge and steam your winkles. Click here for how to cook them. Take them out of their shells and set them aside in a cool place.

Next, clarify the butter. Cut the whole bar of butter into small cubes, put them in a pan and melt them over a really gentle heat along with the bay leaf or bog myrtle. As the butter heats, the white butterfat collects as if scum on the top. Use a strainer spoon to gently lift off the butterfat putting it to one side, don’t chuck it as it’s really nice on toast.

Once the butterfat is off, add rest of spices and the lemon juice to the now clarified butter and switch off the heat but keep the pan over the hob to keep the butter liquid.

Working quite quickly, divide your winkles into four small ramekin dishes.  Take out the bay leaf/bog myrtle and pour the spiced liquid butter mixture over the winkles. Make sure the winkles are pushed below the surface. Leave them to set and once they are cool, cover them and chill in the fridge at least 2 hours before you plan to serve them.  They can be stored in the fridge but eat them with in three days.

Serve on a plate with seaweed oatcakes (link to recipe) or hot brown toast.

Garlic Winkles (Serves 4)

100g of unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced.
320g steamed and de-shelled winkles

Make a garlic butter by lightly frying the garlic in the butter.  Pour over steamed winkles. Serve with crusty bread.

Pepper Dulse and Winkle Goats Cheese (Serves 4)

1 handful of freshly picked pepper dulse or royal fernweed
2 small goats cheeses (100g each)
320g steamed and de-shelled winkles

This is best made on the same day that you pick the pepper dulse or the very next morning. Wash the pepper dulse well in cold fresh water, making sure there is no grit or sand left. Pat dry with a clean tea towel. Hold together in a clump on a chopping board and chop very finely.

Chop and crumble the goats cheese. Then add the finely chopped pepper dulse. Mix well then stir in the steamed winkles. Press into ramekins, chill for an hour or two and decorate with a sprig of pepper dulse.

Pepper dulse and winkle goats cheese

Remember winkles are shellfish so be cautious if you have an allergy.

How to Cook Winkles


You can identify winkles by their colour – they’re dark grey (black when wet) with a white edged opening, and their shape and size – small and rounded. You might confuse them with whelks and dog whelks which are more pointed and much lighter in colour. Both whelks are edible and won’t do you any harm but the texture is very mushy and flavour not as good.

If you head to the seashore with your bucket at low tide, you’ll find them aplenty. I’d advise collecting from rocks, those from sandy areas will just give you more work later to get rid of the sand. Because winkles detach easily from rocks, unlike the hardy, clinging limpets, they like to collect together and hide in damp clefts and under the edges of rocks. Traditionally they are not collected during a month with no R in it. These hotter summer months of May, June, July and August is when they are likely to be reproducing and the cooler months will give winkles with the best and freshest flavour.

This is a typical winkle hiding place!

Step 1: Purge your winkles

Purge your winkles by putting them all into a bucket of seawater. Make sure all the winkles are covered in water, you can do this by using a pan lid that’s small enough to fit into the bucket and pushing it down. If you don’t push this lid down the winkles will make a bid for freedom and those up out the water will end up being sandy and gritty. Leave them soaking for 3 or 4 hours but never for longer that 12 hours.

If you don’t have access to fresh seawater, you can make your own by dissolving 35 grams of salt in 1 litre of water.

Step 2: Steam your winkles

Steam your winkles by putting a small amount of fresh water in a big pan and bring to the boil. You might like to add a splash of white wine, brandy or calvados.

Once the liquid is boiling add the winkles into the pan.  The winkles are small and will pack quite tightly together so it is best to do this in smallish batches.  This will ensure they steam evenly. Steam for 4 minutes, then drain in a colander.

Step 3: Deshell your winkles

Remove the winkles from their shells. You can do this with a specialist winkle pin although a fine skewer or an unfolded paper clip will work just as well.

Take a winkle in one hand and your pin in the other. At the entrance to the shell you’ll see a small, brown, hard flake of shell. This acts as a little door and is attached to the winkle’s muscle, it can’t be eaten. If the ‘door’ is a little open, insert your pin, catch the winkle and pull gently. The coiled body will come out and the door is discarded. If the door is still closed just gently prise it open with your pin.

This is fun for all the family and not as arduous a task as it sounds, I did 100 winkles in about 10 minutes.

Once all the winkles are de-shelled, put them to one side. They can be stored in the fridge like this for a day at most.
This little video shows you how to deshell winkles. Thanks to Rory from EatDrinkRunFun for the video. 

Serve them warmed through in garlic butter or make my favourite, Potted Winkles.