SCOTTISH sea buckthorn is wonderful. Often referred to simply as sea berries, the small orange fruit grows vibrantly and plentifully along the coastline and is usually at its best from around September to February.
I discovered it a few years ago and ever since it has given me cause for excitement when it comes into season in autumn.
I first heard about it from a Swedish friend, as the berries grows wild around Scandinavia and Finland. Then one of my trusted suppliers introduced me to Scottish sea buckthorn, but at first I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I’ve found a few good places to pick it locally and, as a family, we love to forage for ourselves in autumn. It’s an amazing plant and incredibly versatile, as the berries can be used in lots of different dishes or sauces, jams and juices.
I try to make the most of it when it’s in season as the flavour is incredible – it has a wonderfully unique, honey taste that works in both sweet and savoury dishes. You can identify a beautiful hint of citrus and exotic fruit. I’m such a convert I now use sea buckthorn in a number of dishes at the restaurant as well as at home.
The plant is pretty easy to identify thanks to its narrow green leaves and bright clusters of orange berries. But it can be difficult to pick so be careful if you’re foraging yourself. I recommend you try to pick it as gently as you can so you don’t burst the berries with your fingers. And be careful of the vibrant colours from the juice if you do squash them.
When it comes to using it in sweet dishes, I love it in a refreshing sorbet, or served with chocolate – it makes a delicious combination.
It’s also a lovely addition to drinks. This sea buckthorn cocktail is light, sweet and tangy – and it looks delicious. It’s a great drink to serve at dinner parties. Local apple juice producer Cuddybridge also makes a deliciously fresh apple and Scottish sea buckthorn juice which you can find in delis and cafes. The company uses locally sourced Scottish sea buckthorn mixed with a variety of hand-pressed, fresh local apples from the Scottish Borders.
In savoury dishes, sea buckthorn works really well as a replacement for lemon or orange. It’s great with fish, or game or duck can be a nice match too, and it makes a lovely twist to a recipe if you want to try something a little bit different. The reason it goes so well with seafood is because you will find the two close together in nature itself, the fish from the sea and the sea buckthorn growing alongside on the shore line.
If you do manage to get out foraging for sea buckthorn, you can always find a use for the sweet berries. And if you have any leftovers, they can make the perfect ingredient for jams, jellies, syrups and liquors.
It doesn’t just taste wonderful, it is also incredibly high in vitamin C and is among the most nutritious and vitamin-rich fruits you can find. Dry and shred the berries and you can even make your own tea. However you decide to use sea buckthorn, like me, you’re sure to be in awe of the small but wonderful wild berries.
Sea Buckthorn & Apple Non-Alcoholic Cocktail
¼ inch root ginger
30ml sea buckthorn purée
15ml fresh lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
75ml cold green tea
75ml pressed apple juice
3 ½ apple slices
cinnamon for dusting
Lightly muddle the ginger in the base of a Boston glass.
Add the rest of the ingredients and shake vigorously over ice.
Double strain into a large glass filled with ice.
Garnish with the apple slices then a light dusting of cinnamon.
4 line-caught mackerel fillets
50ml extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
200ml white wine
juice of 300ml sea buckthorn berries
400ml fish stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Check the mackerel fillets for pin-bones, removing any you find with kitchen tweezers.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a heavy-based wide pan, add the carrots and sweat over a medium heat for four or five minutes.
Add the shallots, bouquet garni, star anise, fennel and coriander seeds and sweat for a further two to three minutes.
Pour in the white wine, sea buckthorn juice and fish stock and cook slowly, uncovered, for ten to 12 minutes until the carrots are just tender (check with a small, sharp knife).
Now place the mackerel fillets, skin side up, on top of the vegetables, making sure the fillets are covered by the liquid. Cook for two minutes then remove the pan from the heat.
Cover the pan tightly with cling film and set aside for five minutes; the mackerel will continue to cook in the residual heat.
Remove the cling film. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed, then serve the escabeche.
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