Once a scarcity, perlemoen (Haliotis midae) is now more readily available thanks to sustainable largescale aquatic farming along the west, south and east coasts of South Africa. Reared in tanks pumped with fresh seawater, this herbivorous sea snail can be enjoyed ethically, sustainably and is a lot more affordable than in previous decades. Wild-caught perlemoen is still highly endangered and is therefore illegal to harvest and must be avoided. As abalone are slow-growing, farmed perlemoen will be smaller than their wild counterparts, but no less tasty. Based on a recipe from New Free from The Sea (1994, Struik) by Lannice Snyman and Anne Klarie, this recipe for perlemoen croquettes makes the most out of the smaller univalves, combining minced perlemoen meat with potato, spring onion and parsley before being deep-fried to a golden crisp.
A tasty talking point as most South Africans wouldn’t have had perlemoen since their childhood (or ever before!), these croquettes are delicious when served as a hot canapé with a few glasses of chilled Krone Borealis Cuvée Brut – with the Cap Classique’s signature oyster shell aromatics and citrus acidity bringing out the delicate buttery flavour of the abalone.
1. In a pot, cover the potatoes with water and boil until soft. Drain and refrigerate.
2. To prepare the perlemoen, stun it on the mouth area with a heavy object like a mallet. Use a blunted knife or spatula to carefully lever the perlemoen from its shell. The univalve is attached in the same way as an oyster or mussel so aim to slice through the foot without rupturing the stomach sac. Once out of the shell, use kitchen shears to snip away the viscera and the frilly “skirt” that runs around the periphery of the perlemoen. Use a hard-bristled brush to scrub away any black slime and rinse each prepped perlemoen under cold running water. Place the perlemoen on to a cutting board and using a very sharp knife, slice the perlemoen first into strips and then into small squares. As the perlemoen is diced, there’s no need to tenderise it.
3. Place the diced perlemoen into a food processor and add in the cold boiled potatoes, spring onions and parsley. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and blitz until combined. Using clean hands, pinch off the mixture and roll into small balls, about 3cm in diameter. Arrange these balls on a lined baking sheet and refrigerate for a minimum of an hour to firm up.
4. When ready for cooking, heat about 4-5cm of oil in a large pot. Roll the perlemoen croquettes first in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Repeat for a doubly crispy coating. Fry the croquettes in batches for 2-4 minutes, turning once, until golden and crisp. Use the slotted spoon to remove the croquettes, allowing them to drain on kitchen towel.
5. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the croquettes and serve with tartare sauce, fragrant chutney or mayonnaise mixed with finely chopped parsley and capers.