Cooking with seaweed: five fabulous recipes
Elisabeth Luard shows how to turn a selection of basic ingredients into delicious dishes
On a sunny summer's day, I like to forage at low tide for edible seaweed among the rock pools along the breezy shoreline of Cardigan Bay at Aberystwyth. I confine my gatherings to those I know and understand: laver, carragheen and sea lettuce. Just as with land vegetables, sea vegetables are seasonal, and any and all can be farmed - perhaps a not-so-new way to help feed our overpopulated world?
In Britain and Ireland, where the seaweed growing season runs from April to October, laver and carragheen are the two most generally recognised. Laver is best known in the form of laverbread, a dark spinach-like purée available in cans that is traditionally fried in patties with oatmeal and eaten for breakfast in Wales. Carragheen, a highly gelatinous seaweed that looks like a miniature bonsai tree, is valued by food manufacturers as a natural thickener for milk products, as a setting-agent for vegetarian desserts and as a flavourless sausage-skin.
Any sea vegetables bought in dried-leaf form can be rehydrated in water in a matter of minutes and used cooked or raw. They all deliver a little protein as well as vitamins and minerals (particularly iron).
When gathering your own sea vegetables, take advice from someone who knows, and confine your pickings to an unpolluted shoreline. To prepare wild gatherings for storage, rinse well, remove any tough stems, spread on a rack and set in a warm airy corner to dehydrate, then store in a paper bag in a dry place. If you can't get down to the shoreline yourself, visit www.planetorganic.com to order everything you need for a seaweed feast, including a sensational Japanese mix labelled Sea Vegetable Salad. For locally harvested Irish seaweeds in season right now, go to www.dolphinseaveg.com.
Fancy trying some seaweed for yourself? Take a look at the delicious recipes below, they're easy to make and good for you.
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