Seaweed isn’t common on most people’s menus but if you haven’t tried it you’re missing out on an incredible ingredient that is as tasty as it is healthy.
Seaweeds can also be referred to as kelp, sea vegetables, wrack, sea algae or marine algae. Lots of top chefs enjoy cooking with seaweed and see its value as a seasonal, local and healthy ingredient, and the flavour you get can be absolutely outstanding.
The health benefits of seaweed are well-documented, and it is renowned as a rich source of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin B12 and iodine. Another thing I relish about this ingredient is the memories it conjures up. Simply the smell of seaweed can take me back to days spent at the beach, playing and foraging in rockpools, which is where the inspiration for my rockpool dish came from.
Seaweeds are plants that live in the sea and they feed on the water around them. Like all ingredients I’m passionate about, seaweeds are also seasonal. And just like any other produce, it’s worth making sure that what you buy or eat has been grown in the right environment.
At the restaurant, one of my trusted suppliers is Ian McKellor of Just Seaweed – one of the UK’s top seaweed foragers. His knowledge and skill has been passed down through the generations, with his parents both from the island of Bute. His mother was a Girl Guide who gathered seaweed to be made into nets as part of the Second World War effort. As a result, there is nothing this man doesn’t know about seaweed. Living on the Isle of Bute, on the west coast of Scotland, Ian harvests natural, wild, edible sea vegetables by hand from the stunning coastline along the Firth of Clyde.
In large-scale harvesting of seaweed, dredgers are often used to scour the sea bed, but Ian’s method has much less impact on the surrounding environment. Enormous care and attention goes into the foraging and preparation of the seaweed – rinsing, trimming and packing – and Ian has huge respect for the produce he delivers to restaurants like ours, as well as to customers across the world.
Many people don’t think about buying or ordering seaweed, but the bulk of Ian’s orders aren’t just for chefs like me, they are from people who share in the enjoyment of cooking with and eating seaweed at home. The taste you get from seaweed is not fishy, as some people expect – it has an intense sweet-savoury flavour that is unique and makes it a wonderful addition to many fish dishes, salads and sauces.
Each type of seaweed has its own texture, characteristics and flavour. Dried seaweed can be nicely sprinkled over soups and salads, but the best way to enjoy seaweed is fresh (though it has a longer shelf life than you might think). Seaweed grows at different levels, so not all of it is constantly covered by seawater. The tide comes in and out and sometimes the seaweed can be out of water for as long as ten days. The secret is to choose the right types of seaweed – the deeper you get into the shoreline, the shorter its shelf life.
Seaweeds such as channel wrack can be enjoyed for up to two weeks from the time of harvesting. Sometimes known as the king of seaweed, it’s one of the most popular varieties and is incredibly good for you, but it’s less common in certain markets because it’s harder to harvest. You can achieve a wonderful taste and texture, but the beauty of it is how simple it is to prepare. You only need to blanch it and watch it turn a lovely, vibrant green colour before it’s ready to add to your dish.
Try some fresh seaweed at home. You can even add it to your bread for enhanced flavour and health benefits. Seaweed is such a wonderful addition to so many dishes, giving them texture, crunch and flavour.
Poached turbot with saffron broth and seaweed
This is a lovely dish that always impresses if you’re entertaining, yet it’s very simple to make. The seaweed enhances the flavour of the dish.
4 pieces turbot or any poaching
fish (roughly 150g each)
100ml fish stock
200g freshly podded broad
100g fresh seaweed
30g unsalted butter
1 tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp tomato concasse
500g fresh squid ink pasta (you should be able to get this from your local deli)
Pour the 100ml fish stock in a fairly heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of saffron, then lower the heat and simmer gently for two to three minutes.
Season the turbot on both sides and place in the pan with the fish stock, then poach gently for four or five minutes. Turn the turbot over and cook on the other side for a further four or five minutes. You can check if the fish is cooked by gently inserting a needle into the thickest part of the flesh – if there is no resistance, it is cooked.
When the turbot is ready, remove it from the pan and keep it warm. Then reduce the poaching liquor by three quarters and add the butter and whipping cream. Add the broad beans and simmer until tender.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the seaweed individually for three or four seconds.
Place each turbot piece on a plate
and ladle the sauce over the fish. Garnish with the blanched seaweed
and tomato concasse and serve with squid ink spaghetti.
25 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ bunch basil
2 cloves garlic
generous splash olive oil
Place the chopped tomatoes and
all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and leave them to infuse for
ten minutes. Next, whizz the mixture in a blender until puréed.
Take a muslin or cheese cloth and lay in a bowl. Pour the tomato mixture on to the cloth and tie the four corners together with a piece of string. Tie the string to a shelf so that the cloth is hanging and place a bowl underneath to catch all the drips.
You can use any combination of fish, shellfish and seaweed for this recipe – I tend to use whatever comes in fresh on the day, or what my suppliers recommend – but here are some suggestions for you to try.
1 tbsp chopped parsley
50ml white wine
8 squat lobster tails
50g fresh cooked crab
2 razor clams
8 surf clams
40g brown shrimp
20g keta salmon eggs
1 fillet raw mackerel
200g seaweed (ideally channel wrack)
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and
add some olive oil. Add the shellfish
– the mussels, clams, surf clams and razor clams. The add the shallots, parsley and white wine and place a lid on the pan.
The razor clams should be the first to open – take them out of the pan as they do so. Then drop in the squid, the squat lobster tails and brown shrimp and cook in the pan.
Once the mussels and surf clams have opened, take them out of the pan and away from heat, then remove from the shells.
Prepare the razor clams by removing the tender flash from the intestine.
Start to build the dish by dividing the shellfish between four bowls, then adding some cooked crab to each. Add a quarter slice of raw scallop, an oyster, some mackerel and the salmon caviar. Garnish each bowl with the blanched seaweed and samphire.
Pour the tomato consommé into a jug. When you’re serving the dish to your guests it’s great to explain all the different ingredients you’ve used, and then pour the tomato consommé over each dish at the table. I always like to tell my guests that it’s like the tide coming in – a genuine recreation of a rockpool.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West