Seaweed: the superfood of the sea
Seaweed is having a moment. Which is surprising when most of us think of it of as that gross, smelly stuff on the beaches of our childhood. Abundant, slimy and unnerving when it crawls against your legs under water.
But in fact, it's crazily nutritious and flavoursome in cooking.
It's very high in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iodine and iron. And it's said to suppress your appetite. Having far less sodium than salt, you can use it as an alternative and it adds a beautiful umami flavour to things.
I got interested in seaweed when an old friend recently got in touch. Ruth Dronfield (read my interview with her here) is the co founder of Atlantic Kitchen, who are attempting to bring delicious, British, dried seaweed into the mainstream. I think that seems pretty sensible since we've got more than we know what to do with. I decided to get cooking. Atlantic Kitchen's products have been picked up by some of London's top chefs, so it seems I'm not alone on my seaweed crusade. (You can pick it up in all health shops).
The other company making waves is Mara Seaweed. As an avid listener of Radio 4's The Food Programme, I was so impressed to hear them win runner up in the BBC's Food & Farming Awards (third place out of 1200 applicants!) Harvested from special locations around the Scottish coastline, Mara seaweed is then dried and milled into flakes. It's used more as a condiment than an ingredient.
I love their recipe for Kombu butter. Perfect with a steak and salad.
The Mara girls
Here are some delicious things to do with seaweed - Mara, Atlantic & otherwise ...
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 fennel bulb
300m fish stock
1 tbsp creme fraiche
12 - 16 medium, hand dived scallops
1 tbsp Mara shony flakes
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
A knob of butter
A pinch of salt (to taste)
Start with the fennel puree.
Roughly chop the garlic, onion & fennel (saving the fennel fronds for a garnish if you like) and saute gently in a pan with butter.
When they are soft, add 300ml of Pernod, bring to the boil and reduce by half.
Add the fish stock and reduce by another half.
Add the creme fraiche and put into the blender. Season to taste.
Pass the puree through a sieve, a couple of times if you want it really smooth.
Mix together the olive oil, shony, brown sugar, salt and black pepper with the scallops.
When you're ready to serve, reheat your fennel puree in a pan.
Get a non stick frying pan hot with rapeseed oil and sear your marinated scallops. Add a knob of butter and keep spooning the rest of the seaweed mixture over the scallops as you cook them. They should take about 2 minutes on each side (depending on size).
Arrange puree on a plate with the scallops sitting on top. Carefully pour the sauce over and garnish with dill, fennel fronds or Greek basil.
Wakame, edamame & radicchio salad
I must confess I haven't written the recipe down for this one as you can pretty much free style. It's great with fresh prawns too.
I bought packet of Wakame from the Chinese supermarket, cooked and ready to eat.
Wash and chop some radicchio
Cook some frozen edamame and refresh in ice cold water to keep them green and crunchy.
Chop some coriander.
Throw in some vermicelli noodles.
Roast and chop some peanuts.
Shave radishes nice and thin.
Chop some pickled ginger.
Mix all of the above with a soy, ginger, chilli, lime, sesame oil dressing.
Garnish with black and white sesame seeds.
Makes about 20 crisps, depending on size
Agave and sesame nori crisps
1 packet of nori sheets
These are fun to make because you can experiment with lots of different flavours.
Cut the nori sheets into squares or rectangles or whatever shape you want your crisps.
With a pastry brush, brush a nori square well with water, shiny side up and stick another on top. Make sure it’s stuck around all the edges. Repeat three times.
Squeeze a little agave on a tray and a little sesame oil separately. Brush the top of the crisp with the oil and agave. Somewhere else on the tray pour some sesame seeds and press the top of the crisp into the seeds so they stick. Sprinkle with salt. Bake on a rack at 130c for 15-20mins.
Try it with chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, nutritional yeast or hemp seeds.
RACK OF LAMB WITH A DULSE CRUST
30g Mara Dulse flakes
2 handfuls of rosemary
2 handfuls of parsley (but a number of herbs - coriander, thyme, basil - will work, whatever you have lying around)
1 clove garlic
5 tbsps breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of bread) or panko breadcrumbs
A squeeze of lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 x 7 rib lamb racks (french trimmed)
Put the dulse, herbs, garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon and some salt and pepper in a food processor and blitz.
Season your lamb racks and fry in a hot pan until coloured. Remove and brush with Dijon mustard. Press the crust neatly on top and put in the fridge for an hour or so to set.
Place the lamb on a rack over a roasting tin and brush with Dijon mustard. Press the crust neatly on top and put in the fridge for an hour or so to set.
Cook the lamb for 20 minutes at 180c and let rest for at least 10 more minutes.
Serve on a bed of kale with rosemary jelly.
THREE SPAGHETTI PUTTANESCA
30g Atlantic Kitchen sea spaghetti
4 cloves garlic
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small tin of anchovies
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
A small handful of destoned, black olives
A big handful of fresh basil
Spiralise your courgette.
Put two pans of water on to boil.
Rinse your sea spaghetti and start to boil as you would normal spaghetti. It takes about 5 minutes longer to cook though (and doesn't smell great during cooking).
Then start cooking the normal spaghetti.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Gently fry the garlic in the olive oil with the anchovies and chilli. Then add the olives and tomatoes and a ladle of pasta water, put the lid on and cook the sauce for about 3 minutes. Add the courgette in the last minute.
Drain the spaghettis and mix with the sauce. Stir through the basil at the last minute, season to taste and finish off with parmesan shavings.