Hohlioi (Saligkaria) Kokkinisto me Rizi / Χοχλιοί (Σαλιγκάρια) Κοκκινιστοί με Ρύζι (Greek Snails with Red Sauce and Rice)

Snails, or the more commonly used word when it comes to edible snails ‘escargots‘, are a common sight on menus all across the Mediterranean region. In Greece, on Crete in particular, snails are commonly fried in some olive oil, rosemary and garlic, or braised in a simple tomato sauce with vegetables and eaten as an appetizer, or side-dish. In order to turn snails into a full main course, a couple of handfuls of rice can be stirred into the sauce to create a kind of Greek snail risotto ‘Hohlioi (Saligkaria) Kokkinisto me Rizi’ (simply meaning ‘snails in red sauce with rice’ – ‘hohlioi’ being the Cretan word for snails ‘saligkaria’).

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This ‘snails and rice’ was not a dish I was very familiar with before – when I eat snails I like them piled high on a plate with nothing else but butter, or olive oil and an inordinate amount of garlic. It is, however, a dish my boyfriend very distinctly and very dearly remembers from his childhood. In my boyfriend’s family, the dish that’s known to everybody else in Greece as ‘hohlioi kokkinisto me rizi’, is lovingly referred to as “grandpa’s dish”. 

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My boyfriend fondly recounted the memory of his Naxian grandfather regularly cooking this dish for lunch while on a break from working in the fields (tending to cows and potatoes; all that Naxian stuff) with snails specially bought all the way from Crete (where snails are probably loved and eaten the most in Greece). The snails were cooked on a tiny fire in a little hut located somewhere on the large field and they – grandpa, my boyfriend, his younger brother, and occasionally his parents – would all eat it together outside in grandpa’s field.

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While I unfortunately have never been able to meet my boyfriend’s grandfather and eat his snails, and while I spend most of my childhood very much not eating snails, the dish and my boyfriend’s personal memory of it were described to me so vividly that I could very much imagine what it tasted like (surely, I am not the only one who can ‘taste’ food in their minds before actually tasting it(?)). So, when my boyfriend came home with a box full of snails after venturing out to the market alone one particular Saturday, I tried to recreate the dish from his past descriptions and from various other recipes for ‘snails and rice’. 

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Not to pat myself on the back, but my boyfriend said I succeeded and that this dish transported him straight back to his grandfather’s field and the snails in red sauce. Perhaps you’d like to go there as well? Here’s the recipe.

Tip #1: The sauce for this dish is made with very ripe, fresh tomatoes. Should you not be able to find very ripe and flavorful tomatoes, add whichever tomatoes you can get plus about half a tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste to the sauce.

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Hohlioi (Saligkaria) Kokkinisto me Rizi / Χοχλιοί (Σαλιγκάρια) Κοκκινιστοί με Ρύζι (Greek Snails with Red Sauce and Rice)

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  • GF
  • DF
Greek recipe for snails with red sauce and rice
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Prep Time:25 mins
  • Cook Time:60 mins
  • Serves:4
  • Freezable:Yes

Nutrition per portion

Ingredients
  • 400g (live) snails, weight with shells
  • Splash of vinegar
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + extra for drizzling
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 150ml dry red wine
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes*
  • 500ml vegetable broth (or water)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 300g risotto rice, or other short grain rice
  • Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • * Should you not be able to find very ripe and flavorful tomatoes, add whichever tomatoes you can get plus about half a tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste to the sauce.
Method
To clean and prepare the live snails:
  1. Put the live snails in a big bowl, or sink and run cold water over them. Leave them in a layer of water until their heads poke out, or they try to crawl out. Throw away snails that remain dormant.
  2. Place live snails in a bowl filled with fresh water and a little bit of salt and vinegar. When the water starts to get dirty, drain the old water and fill again with fresh water, a little vinegar and salt. Repeat until the water more-or-less stops turning dirty and slimy from the snails.
  3. Take a big pot filled with water and again a splash of vinegar and a bit of salt. Add the snails and boil for about 15 minutes in total, changing the water once, or twice if there is still a lot of gunk coming out.
  4. Scrape away the seal/membrane covering the opening of the shell (you can also do this before boiling the snails).
- To make the dish:
  1. Prepare the vegetables: Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the ripe tomatoes to a food processor and puree into a sauce-like consistency. If you don’t have a food processor, very finely chop the tomato with a knife.
  2. Sauté the vegetables: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, high-rimmed pan, or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and almost starts to brown.
  3. Deglaze the pan with wine: Add the red wine and stir and cook for a few minutes until some of the alcohol has evaporated.
  4. Add the pureed tomatoes, vegetable broth and some salt and pepper to your taste. Bring to a soft simmer.
  5. Add snails: When the broth starts simmering, add the snails to the sauce and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add rice: Stir in the rice and chopped flat leaf parsley and cover again with a lid. Leave to cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pot, until the rice is cooked and has absorbed the liquid (takes about 20 minutes).
  7. Drizzle some extra olive oil over the rice and serve warm.

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