Mark Greenaway is the Edinburgh-based chef and owner of Restaurant Mark Greenaway and the author of ‘Perceptions‘. He has chosen Hebridean Sea Salt why as his favourite Scottish produce, and here he explains why and provided us with a recipe for salted caramel chocolate bars showcasing the excellent versatility of this wonderful product.
Natalie Crayton of Hebridean Sea Salt has only been producing sea salt for the last 5 years but in this time I have become a devoted fan of her and what she is doing.
My attitude is and has always been that if you don’t support new local businesses that are producing something fantastic literally on your doorstep, how are they meant to grow and hopefully sit on the shelves next to the market leaders?
Now there isn’t a shortage of sea salt producers in the UK, in fact the global leader when it comes to sea salt is based in England.
However, back in 2011, there was a shortage of Scottish sea salt producers when Natalie first set up her now growing empire, which consists not only of the purest, tastiest sea salt in my mind, but also peat smoked salt, which is smoked with a mixture of oak and peat cut from the surrounding moor and seaweed infused salt which uses dried seaweed harvested locally and is a great addition to any fish dish or goes particularly well with lamb.
When planning for my first appearance on BBC’s Great British Menu in 2012 I wanted to source a very Scottish larder of produce from suppliers who I knew and trusted.
For the most part I was convinced of my success in this until I arrived on set for the first day of filming and noticed that Alan Murchison had some unusual salt with him.
This was my first look at Hebridean Sea Salt and I knew immediately that I wanted to use it at the restaurant.
I contacted Natalie in the following weeks and asked if she could send me some samples.
The salt arrived in the original test packaging and looked very different from the polished packages which arrive today.
However what hasn’t changed is the amazing almost gem like contents.
Hebridean Sea Salt is Scotland’s first artisan salt producer. Nestled on the banks of Loch Erisort, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, they harvest salt water from some of the most unspoilt coastline in the world.
It is pumped into an open pan, heated and condensed and the sea salt flakes that are created are harvested and dried before packing.
It all began for Natalie in 2011 having identified a gap in the market. She couldn’t believe no one in Scotland was producing sea salt, when Scotland’s west coast water is so pure – the waters around the Hebrides are crystal clear and have been given a grade A certification for purity and as a result Natalie’s salt is pure, white, crunchy sea salt that tastes fantastic.
Natalie spent more than a year in research and development, before putting some salt into friends’ hands to test and get feedback.
She then went on to secure sales in 400 independent delis and shops and to expand into two more units in remote South Lochs.
Natalie now employs three people within the business.
Keeping the team small means Natalie can control every part of the process from start to finish.
Salt is such a vital ingredient in any kitchen. And in my opinion, Hebridean Sea Salt packs a massive flavour and can transform even the most humble of dishes.
There is a common misconception that salt is a flavour enhancer when in reality it actually dulls bitter and sour notes allowing other flavours to shine through.
This is why salt is so important in so many of my dishes and even gets used in desserts along with savoury dishes.
Hebridean Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars
• 150g caster sugar
• 10g Hebridean sea salt
• 50g butter
• 100ml double cream
Passion Fruit Curd
• 200ml passion fruit juice
• 200g caster sugar
• 3 eggs
• 3 egg yolks
• 115g butter
For the chocolate
• 400g dark chocolate (70% callebaut)
Method for the Salted Caramel:
1. Place the sugar in a heavy based pot over a medium heat
2. Melt to a golden brown caramel
3. Add the salt and stir
4. Add the butter and stir until incorporated
5. Stir in the cream
6. Allow to cool
Method for the Passion Fruit Curd:
1. Place the juice, sugar, yolks and eggs in a bain marie and stir until the sugar has dissolved
and the mixture has reached 82C
2. Leave this mixture to cool down completely
3. Place the mixture in a blender with the butter and blend until smooth and shiny
4. Store in the fridge
Method for the chocolate:
1. Roughly chop 300g of the chocolate
2. Finely chop the remaining 100g or process it in a food processor
3. Place the roughly chopped chocolate in a bowl
4. Half fill a saucepan with hot water and place the bowl over it, making sure that the base of the bowl does not touch the water
5. Gently heat the water, ensuring it does not boil
6. Stir using a spatula so that the chocolate melts smoothly and evenly
7. Check the temperature with a thermometer, when it reaches 55C-58C remove the chocolate from the bain marie
8. Set aside one-third of the melted chocolate in a bowl in a warm place
9. Add the 100g of finely chopped chocolate into the remaining two-thirds of the melted chocolate, stirring constantly until it reaches 28C-29C
10. Add the reserved melted chocolate to increase the temperature, it should reach 31C-32C
11. Stir until the correct temperature is reached
12. The chocolate is now tempered
13. Please check with your chocolate as tempering guidelines may change depending on the brand of chocolate
1. Pour the tempered chocolate into chocolate bar moulds
2. Tip out any excess and allow to set
3. Fill the squares with the salted caramel and passion fruit curd and place in the fridge to set
4. Once set, top with a layer of tempered chocolate
5. Allow to set before tipping the bars out of the moulds
6. Wrap each bar in tin foil then a label or alternatively just serve them as they are