The spectacle of freshly opened oysters is for me, the perfect way to start a Christmas dinner, their bracing brininess a contrast to the richness they precede. Each different infused olive oils bring a different contrast to the oysters, so choose whether you prefer citrus (lemon), spicy heat (chilli) or aromatic (basil). Powerful bergamot really electrifies the combination, but if you can’t get hold of one, lemon zest is happy substitute.
A fine grater or microplane
1 bergamot lemon
1/2kg crushed ice
Chilli, Basil or Lemon extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Wash and scrub the oysters under cold running water to remove any dirt and grit.
Use a thick kitchen cloth to protect your hand. Hold the oyster in place with the cloth with a sturdy chopping board underneath. Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the pointed end, between the flat and curved shells and gently wiggle from side to side to push the tip in. Now twist the edge of the knife to force the shell to open, then carefully run the edge of the knife along the top of the flat shell to free the oyster. Remove the top of the shell and keep as decoration for the plate, if desired.
Next, run the knife under the oyster to separate it from the curved shell, staying close to the edge to avoid cutting it, then remove any small bits of broken shell or sediment.
Arrange the ice on a plate or bowl and then place the oysters on top. Gently zest the bergamot over the oysters. Not much is needed as the bergamot is extremely powerful. Add a good few drops of your chosen infused olive oil into each oyster and serve immediately.