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Cucumbers, oysters and gin


With oyster season beginning this month, renowned Bowral chef James Viles shares a recipe that combines the fresh shellfish with end-of-summer cucumbers, nasturtium leaves and aromatic gin.

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Viles is the chef and owner of Biota Dining & Rooms in Bowral, New South Wales. He champions the use of seasonal, ethical produce while creating dishes inspired from the plant and animal life of his local environment.

In his first cookbook, Biota: Grow. Gather. Cook, Viles offers a simple guide to sustainable eating wherever you are in the world, with inspired recipes, thoughtful dialogue and stunning photography. The book is broken down into three chapters – garden, forest, farm – then further to follow the seasons.

Below, Viles shares a recipe that makes use of some of his favourite ingredients as summer turns to autumn.

“Gin and oysters are a great combination, and I love my gin with a slice of cucumber, which is where this combination arose,” he writes.

“This is definitely cucumber with oyster – the oyster is accustomed to being centre stage, but here it’s very much a vessel for the fabulous chilled flavour of that garden cucumber. You can use large Pacific oysters here, or my favourite, gold lip oysters from Tasmania.

“Beach mustard is a gathered ingredient that we collect from the coast and is entirely optional if it’s not easily found where you live.”

Cucumber, native oysters and beach plants

Cucumber Ice

6 cucumbers, unpeeled
2 sprigs bronze fennel
2 teaspoons lime juice
30g (1 oz) honey

Juice the unpeeled cucumbers with the fennel. Add the lime juice and honey to the cucumber juice. Pour into a shallow tray and freeze for 2 hours, running a fork through the mixture every 30 minutes as the ice particles form.


4 of the best Lebanese cucumbers you can find
10 cucumber flowers
50ml aromatic gin

Start by peeling the cucumbers, then use an apple corer to remove the cucumber seeds.

Take the outer flesh rings and slice into 1 cm thick pieces. Dress the cucumber slices and flowers with the gin and leave in the fridge until needed.

Oyster Creme

6 large unopened oysters
220ml cream
50ml white soy sauce (found at good Asian grocers)
Juice of 2 lemons

Shuck the oysters, keeping all the juices. Strain the juices into a blender and then add the oyster meat. Add the cream, soy sauce and lemon juice and purée until the creme is thick.

Shucked Oysters

4 unopened Angassi oysters (native oysters from Coffin Bay, can substitute with Pacific)

Shuck the oysters over a plate to collect the juices. Remove the oysters from their shells and leave on the plate in their juices in the fridge until ready to serve.

Plants to finish

Nasturtium leaves
4 sprigs beach mustard (young rocket leaves and buds are similar in taste)
1 sheet of sea lettuce (also known as green kelp or wakame, can be found at Asian grocers)

Serves 4


Recipe and images from ‘Biota Grow. Gather. Cook’ by James Viles, $59.99, Murdoch Books.

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