All about Laverbread
Laver (Porphyra) was the first seaweed I foraged and cooked. I remember my photographer friend Wendy Pye coming to visit me on my first Cornish Winter (2007). We traipsed up to the north coast and picked luscious looking laver from the rocks. I cooked it for hours and we had it on toast for breakfast. Wendy was one of my many guests that I experimented on and who helped me realise I wasn't mad for liking seaweed! This was before the more recent revival of interest and use in seaweeds here in the UK.
Laver has been eaten in Britain for centuries and records of its use go back to the 1600s. Yet the traditional breakfast of laverbread almost disappeared completely in the UK, with the except of certain coastal areas of Wales. Luckily this fantastic food is still growing wild and been eaten and enjoyed. Funnily enough, the same seaweed is used to make around 1 billion nori sheets annually in Japan. See my Nori, Rye, Buckwheat and Oat Cracker recipe to find out more.
How to Cook Laver
Laverbread refers to laver seaweed cooked for hours so it reduces down to a black pulp. Also known as Black Gold and Welshman's Caviar, these names speak of how highly laver was prized as a food.
Instructions for cooking laver advise simmering for 2-12 hours and letting the water boil off. When I first cooked laver I didn't want the saucepan to boil dry (and burn) so I ended up with excess liquid. Not ideal, but great for using in stocks, stews and soups! Laver can also be cooked in a pressure cooker in less time or in a slow cooker overnight. Both these methods will save your saucepans from boiling dry!
I also share how to cook laver and a recipe for incorporating it into bread in my seaweed book which has 16 seaweeds in and more information about laver, including where it likes to grow and different species.
The Goodness in Laverbread
Laver seaweed contains high amounts of protein, B12, magnesium, iron and vitamin C. It also contains calcium, iodine, zinc, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and good traces of many other vitamins and minerals. Laverbread is good for you!
If you're not able to harvest it yourself, you can buy laverbread either freshly made in some Welsh delicatessens or in tins. The tinned stuff is just as good, often cooked in sea water, it has the perfect taste and texture. I've bought several tinned ones before and loved them!
How to Make Laver Cakes
This is a classic laver recipe which consists of bacon, bacon fat, laverbread and oatmeal. It was traditionally served at breakfast, but is rather nice as part of an evening meal too.
- 5 slices of streaky bacon
- 150 g laverbread
- 40 oatmeal (or oats powdered)
Fry the strips of bacon in their own fat, remove from the pan and finely chop. In a medium bowl combine the bacon, laverbread and enough oatmeal to bind the mixture. Shape into 'cakes' or patties about 2 cm thick and fry in the bacon fat for about 2 minutes on either side. Eat on their own or as part of a meal.