Seaweed in the Kitchen

Seaweed in the Kitchen, Fiona Bird
Prospect Books, 2015
 

Eating seaweed has become a bit of a thing lately. Like munching on cereal in a cafe in Shoreditch or giving up gluten, the briney weed is floating high in the culinary consciousness of the hip crowd. For those lucky enough to live by the shore, not to mention far from the bearded unicyclists of the modern metropolis, you can try it for free - just pull on your rubber boots, head to the rocks and gather your supply.

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Fiona Bird has been combing the coastline near her home on the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides for several years. Her experiences are collected in Seaweed in the Kitchen, a joyous pocketbook brimming with knowledge and enthusiasm. As rich in historical and cultural analysis as it is in cooking expertise, the book offers advice on gathering, preparation and farming, before moving through the history of seaweed consumption and its various medicinal uses. The closing chapter offers a wide selection recipes, covering starters, main courses and desserts.

Fiona has kindly agreed to share two of her favourite recipes with our readers. In commenting on her own seaweed consumption, she said, "I eat seaweed in my daily bread, which is made from a seaweed sourdough. I call my starter, Hotchpotch because the sourdough starter has been fed with so many different species of seaweed."

Beetroot and Sugar Kelp dust

A colourful sprinkle and easy to make, although the drying takes time. Sprinkles, blended or otherwise, are all the rage with artisan seaweed harvesters and on sale in delicatessens but you can make your own. This blend of root and sea veg, finely ground together to form maroon dust, brightens up any dull day to day cooking (e.g. a poached egg). It enhances flavour and the recipe per se is unique - as yet, it is unavailable in a store near you.

Dried beetroot and kelp dust adds flavour to: soups, casseroles, stir- fries, crumbles or muffins. A colourful idea is to serve a small pot of the beetroot and sugar kelp dust with boiled quail eggs, in much the same manner that celery salt is served. This recipe may be adapted to use other root and sea vegetables. The drying process could also take place in a low oven.

Makes one small jar

Marine algae: 150g sugar kelp fronds
Additional ingredients: 5 small beetroots

Wash the beetroots and bake or boil them, as you prefer. If possible cool them over a bowl of ice to reduce the temperature as soon as possible. Remove the skin and cut the cooled beetroots as finely as possible using a mandoline slicer.

Spread the even sized slices over food dehydrator trays (or on baking trays in a low oven). Set the temperature to 70 degrees C (high) and dehydrate for an hour and then reduce the temperature to 50 degrees C and dehydrate overnight (or to manufacturer’s instruction) until the beetroot slices are brittle. The final colour of the beetroots is dependent on the drying temperature and in my experience the lower the sequential heat temperature the better the colour preservation.

Cut the sugar kelp fronds into lengths of the same size and dry at 70 degrees C for 30 minutes and then for a further 2-3 hours at 45 degrees C until the kelp is completely dry and crumbles with ease. Put the dried beetroot and kelp into a grinder and blend until finely ground.

Dulse Soup

A simple and inexpensive recipe (unless you’ve purchased dried dulse from a store). Dulse is heralded in the press as the new bacon, but to me, it tastes like dulse. It is packed with flavour. The only other ingredients that you need are a carrot, potato and onion from the vegetable basket and oil, butter and water. This recipe allows a traditional ingredient to steal the show – some may call dulse a poverty ingredient but it’s one well worth getting to know.

The flavour in this simple soup comes from the dulse. It never ceases to confuse guests. Some think that it tastes meaty. When time permits simmer the soup for longer to intensify the flavour of the wine-red dulse, which becomes green when cooked. Frozen dulse will defrost quickly and if using dried dulse, reduce the quantity to 2 level tbsps.

Serves 2-3

Marine algae 6tbsps fresh dulse, finely chopped Additional ingredients     15g butter     1 tbsp oil     1 onion, peeled and finely chopped     2 medium potatoes peeled and bite size dice 2 carrots, peeled small dice     Approx 750ml water

Put the butter and oil in a pan to melt over a low heat. Add the onion and cook briefly before adding the potato and carrot. Sauté for 3-4 minutes and then add the chopped dulse. Add enough water to cover the sea and root vegetables and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a minimum of 25 minutes. This soup may be served as is or blended in a food processor. Add additional seaweed stock as required after blending.


Fiona Bird is the author of Kids’ Kitchen (2009) and The Forager’s Kitchen (2013). She lives on South Uist and is married to the local doctor. A former finalist of BBC Masterchef, she blogs about cooking with wild ingredients for the Huffington post.