I like to experiment. It's not that I don't repeat tried and tested recipes that I love. I do, but sometimes I like to experiment and try something a little bit different.
I have a couple of recipes for seaweed hummus and seaweed dips (including Broad Bean and Sea Greens Dip and Kelp Hummus which you'll find in my Seaweed Foraging book) that I've made again and again. Though this particular Saturday afternoon I fancied doing something different.
I have a shelf in my kitchen dedicated to seaweeds, call it my seaweed shelf, if you like. I perused the different varieties of dried seaweeds I had and decided to use a combination of two seaweeds. In my freezer I had lots of frozen peas, I love frozen peas, and decided to combine the peas and seaweeds, with lemon and garlic, of course.
(Bowl of dried gutweed - Ulva intestinalis - sometimes known as sea greens)
Gut weed, also known as Sea Greens (Ulva intestinalis) was my obvious choice with peas, though I'd also have some great successes adding Pepper dulse (Osmundea pinnatifida or Laurencia pinnatifida) to many dips as it adds a spicy kick to recipes and accentuates flavours already there. So my choice was made; gutweed for its wonderful herby flavour and lots of nutrition including B12 and protein, and pepper dulse for the peppery umami flavour.
Dips are so easy to make, just whizz them up and serve. Really.
Once blended, I sealed the Pea and Seaweed dip in a couple of tupper-ware containers and took it to the beach where I met a group of eager and budding foragers for a Seaweed Foraging Course. Towards the end of the afternoon we sat on the rocks and ate. Two tubs of this more-ish dip went rather fast, and was enjoyed by the adults and kids on tasty seaweed bread.
Pea and Seaweed Dip
- 425 g frozen peas (defrosted)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 5 g dried and ground gutweed seaweed (Ulva intestinalis)
- 5 g dried and ground pepper dulse seaweed (Osmundea pinnatifida or Laurencia pinnatifida)
- Juice from 1 and 1/2 lemons
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
Blend all the ingredients and serve. Keeps well for a few days and perfect on the beach with fresh bread.
Karen Pirie, a Cornwall based podcaster recently joined me on a seaweed foraging course to record a podcast for her new venture; Cornwall Woman.
I've known Karen for a few years and find her easy company. She travelled with me to meet our group of keen and potential seaweed foragers on the south coast of Cornwall. On the way we chatted about life, using time well, foraging, nature and love - all the important things of life for sure!
Here's the podcast, which includes snippets about Laver/Lava seaweed (Porphyra species), Dulse (Palmaria palmata) and even Kelp (Laminaria digitata), oh and Karen's favourite Pepper Dulse (Osmundea pinnatifida).
The day was blowy and together with the group we found sheltered crops of rocks where we hid from the elements and talked about and tasted our freshly foraged seaweeds. Later on we found warm rocks to lean against, which were even further out of the wind, and here we enjoyed Spiced Seaweed Broth and Seaweed bread. The recipe for the broth (image below) is here; Seaweed Soup with an Inner Kick and the recipe for the Sea Lettuce Seaweed Bread is here in my Seaweed Foraging Book.
After the course, Karen and I slipped away to check out another beach I really wanted to see at low tide. Here, we got to chat some more about the course that had just happened and the role that foraging can play in helping us prioritise what feels good and how it can help re-balance our lives. Thank you Karen, and all the best with Cornwall Woman, which is all about cool Cornish women and their love-affair with Cornwall.
Hearty Seaweed Broth (awards for taste but not for looks!), fit for a windy Cornish beach when something hot and nourishing is needed. This is just before I ladle it into a food flask and whisk it off to our beach where we'll spend 3 hours learning about its ingredients and much more. If you'd like to try the recipe, here it is again; Three Seaweed Soup with an Inner Kick.
I'm standing on a rock at low tide, layers of organic matter below my feet, formed over billions of years. Beyond me is the great ocean herself, perhaps where we all came from and marking a time before our migration, along with (now) terrestrial plants, onto land.
Around me swells the seawater, not so different from the water contained in each of my body's cells. Somehow my sense of time, body and what I am made of is changing; I feel both young and old, connected and in wonder at my ancestry of rock, sea water and seaweeds.
Yes seaweeds, also so much older than this human form of yours and mine. Red seaweeds (that's another discussion of what constitutes a red seaweed, which I'm happy to have, another time) are thought to be the oldest of them all. Somewhere between 1.6 and 2 billion years old. Their structure, reproduction and variety are fascinating, though what interests me the most is their flavour.
And on the topic of seaweed flavour, I have an unanswered question.
Actually I have many, and a sketchbook of seaweed notes still to decipher. Though for now, I have one, little question:
How come the Red Seaweeds have the most Interesting, Multi-layered and Tantalizing Flavour?
(Baked Oysters, Pepper Dulse Seaweed and Lemon Butter - from my Seaweed Foraging Book)
I could speculate that the answer is because of red seaweed's structure, their both basic and complex form, and a form that comes with age. Though when I asked some of the UK’s best seaweed experts (people who have taught me and whom I deeply respect) they just shrugged their shoulders and answered ‘I don’t know’.
Despite their age and importance there is still so much we don’t know about seaweeds, and that in some ways, is part of their wonder. An unknown, underwater world that, here in the British Isles, reveals itself just twice a day to us.
I love standing by the water’s edge, on the boundary of this unknown world, there is still so much to learn and already so much to share.
On the theme of red seaweeds (there are also hundreds of species of green and brown ones to enjoy), their complex flavour means they are both compatible with a wide range of foods from quiche to lemony dressings, and also bring out ‘umami’, a flavour which heightens all other flavours. Simple things like bread, rice and potatoes become something inspired with a little bit of seaweed added.
Taste, colour, flavour and texture all make up the components of food that is an enjoyable part of our human experience, and that's without mentioning the vast nutritional benefits of seaweeds. Of course, the amounts you use and the combinations you create all constitute how enjoyable seaweeds are, and those details are important.
Here's more information on seaweed foraging courses and here's a link to the calendar dates for seaweed foraging courses to puruse, or book. Each beach has a different range of seaweeds and each season offers something different too.
I'm often asked what my favourite time to forage is, well spring is fantastic, though honestly, winter is becoming an increasingly wonderful time to forage. The quiet, the abundance of plants and the unexpected joys of finding food (not in the supermarket) this time of year.
On January 2nd myself and a small group of friends went foraging, our task; to simply enjoy the outdoors and gather a few ingredients for supper, which we'd then share together, and that's exactly what we did. A big thank you to Sara Pozzoli for joining us and filming us. Here's the menu;
Winter Foraging Menu
Spelt Bread with Alexander Seeds
Salsa Verde with Rock Samphire, Pepper Dulse and Three-Cornered Leek
Alexanders, Sea Spinach, Gorse Flower and Coconut Curry
Yoghurt Dressing with Three-Cornered Leek, Black Mustard and Wild Chervil
Chocolate and Haw Berry Jam Cheesecake