Nori doesn't just come in sealed packets, shipped across the world in the form of nori sheets. Nori (Porphyra) can also be picked fresh in Winter on Cornish coasts and from European waters. No plastic, no air miles, just fresh nori goodness.
Freshly picked nori needs to be dried to create the same taste as nori sheets. I share how to dry, flake and store seaweeds, as well as guidance on when, where and how to pick seaweeds sustainably in my award-winning seaweed book.
Here I share a recipe which uses flaked nori seaweed, combined with rye, oatmeal and roasted buckwheat to create a rustic cracker. These were shared on a seaweed foraging course with seaweed butter/oil or cheese. They were very moreish - everything always tastes better eaten outdoors on the beach!
Nori, Rye, Oatmeal and Roasted Buckwheat Cracker Recipe
These are easy to make, they store well and are full of natural goodness!
200 g white rye flour
100 g oatmeal (or ground porridge oats)
200 g roasted buckwheat grains
1 tbsp dried, ground nori
Large pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp oil (vegetable, olive oil or half and half of each)
200-230 ml water
Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combined. Add the oil and gradually add the water until it makes a workable dough and set aside for half an hour to allow the moisture to be absorbed. Decide whether you want rustic, oval shaped crackers (1) or crackers shaped with biscuit cutters (2). Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C.
1. Break off walnut sized blobs and roll them out between two pieces of grease-proof paper to the thickness of the buckwheat seeds. If the dough is a little sticky, you can add more oatmeal. Roll in one direction to get tongue shaped crackers or keep turning them around to create rustic round crackers. You may need to change the baking paper if it gets too soggy.
2. Roll the dough out between two pieces of greaseproof paper and use a biscuit cutter to create the crackers. When pressing down the cutter into the dough, take this opportunity to press the dough more firmly together. My dough was quite crumbly, so doing this really helped!
Place the crackers on a large sheet of dry baking paper on an oven tray and bake for 15 minutes. Turn them half-way through with a fish slice or similar (they will be fragile) until all the water has evaporated and they have turned a little brown. Allow to cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container.
Made for Valentine's Day, some hearts break easily, some stay whole, still delicious! If you try this recipe, I'd love to hear from you, tag me on instagram @rachellambertwildfoodforaging or ping me a message.
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.
I love sweet, it is one of the flavours of my childhood. When I was growing up, Sunday lunch was always a big deal and automatically included homemade pudding as part of the experience. In autumn I remember the warm fluffy texture of the meringue topping in lemon and meringue pie, the tart lemony layer and the crumbly pastry, straight from the oven. In summer, pavlova; large meringues over-flowing with cream and summer fruits. These are both exciting memories and the sickly sweet kind, as I was very familiar with eating too much dessert as a child.
Sweet meringues, with a twist
As an adult, my love of sweet hasn't disappeared though it has been redirected slightly. I try and reduce the amount of sugar I use in recipes and incorporate unrefined sugars rather than the refined white stuff. Unrefined sugar retain more natural minerals. These meringues aren't too sweet, they're made using unrefined sugars and wild Cornish seaweed and are delicious! The seaweed chosen has a good amount of protein in which helps balance the carbohydrate dominance in them too, and if seaweed meringues don't appeal to you, I dare you to try these, especially if you like sweet.
(Making seaweed meringues, combining the different brown sugars, little by little, the seaweed and chocolate)
These meringues are a little different. First of all they contain no white sugar. Second, they are small (you don't need to over do it on these) and thirdly, they contain hand picked, wild, Cornish seaweed. They freeze well too.
- They contain no white sugar.
- They are small (you don't need to over do it on these)
- They contain hand picked, wild, Cornish seaweed.
- Confession time: It's not my recipe, I've tweaked and altered it slightly, but basically it is from Prannie Rhatigan's Irish Seaweed Kitchen. Highly recommended.
(My wild picked, home dried nori/laver/lava/porphyra seaweed, then whisking it into the meringue mixture)
Seaweed Meringues with Cornish Seaweed
- 4 organic egg whites
- 40 g dark muscavado sugar
- 40 g soft brown sugar
- 125 g unrefined sugar
- 3 tbsp flaked and dried nori/laver seaweed
- 1 tbsp cocao powder
Preheat the oven to 150°C and line 2-3 large baking trays with baking paper. In a large, spotlessly clean bowl whisk the egg whites into soft peaks. In a separate bowl, mix the sugars and crush any lumps. Add the sugar to the egg whites, just 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking until the whites are stiff, before adding a further 2 tablespoons. Continue until all the sugar is incorporated into the egg whites. Fold in the seaweed and cocoa powder and combine well.
Using two teaspoons, drop dollops of the mixture onto the lined baking tray with space between each. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the door shut until the meringues have cooled down completely, or leave overnight.
Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks or freeze in a tupperware container, separating layers of meringues with the baking paper used to bake the meringues on.
I make seaweed tasters (handmade snacks using hand-harvested seaweeds) on all my seaweed foraging courses, where you'll learn so much more about seaweeds. Here's a small, small insight on my seaweed blog.
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.
Yesterday I was crunching on frosty kelp, today the seaweeds are limp and wet again, having defrosted in the sun. It's a lot for seaweeds to cope with, or is it?
In reverence to seaweed, and in celebration of the 'proper' snow we had 2 weeks ago (the first time in 10 years here in west cornwall!), I thought I'd write about seaweeds, snow, frost and freezing temperatures.
Do they like it? Can they survive? And, if they can, what are their secrets?
Frost catches a moment in time, and literally, freezes it, the effect is beautiful, though what is the impact for the weeds?
Firstly, seaweeds exist across the world, in vastly varying temperatures and conditions, from 50 metre long kelps, to microscopic organisms to seaweeds that never emerge above the water's surface, to ones that are exposed to the sun, air and being dried out for more than 6 hours every day.
Each species of seaweed is suited to particular environments. Deep sea seaweeds (these are sub-tidal and never come above the sea's surface) are used to more constant temperatures, while inter-tidal ones (which get exposed twice a day at low tide) are built to sustain almost extreme changes in temperature.
'Most seaweeds would be killed if frozen. However high concentrations of tissues salts and organic solutes in the seaweed's cells lower the freezing points.'
Basically, seaweeds have in-built anti-freeze which protects them from freezing.
In reality, this means that Bladder wrack (top image) can cope with -40° C for months, Egg wrack (above) can go to -20° C and some of the laver species (below) can remain unscathed at temperatures as low as -70°C for 24 hours or so, as well as cope with rather high temperatures in the hot sun.
I feel hot and cold just thinking about it.
My awe of these millions of years old organisms increase with this knowledge. Furthermore, seaweeds also work together to protect each other - they live layered on top of each other, which means just the top layer freezes and the lower seaweeds are kept at a more tolerable temperature.
Similarly, emperor penguins, which survive some of the most harshest conditions on earth huddle together to keep warm. They congregate in groups, sometimes in thousands, and those on the outside of the huddle protect those on the inside, and between them they circulate so no penguin is continuously on the outside. Of course, like seaweeds, penguins body is suited to the environment, yet working together is essential for them to survive extreme temperatures.
Here's to the beauty of the snow, the amazing science of nature, and a thankful heart for having warm wellies to go and forage for those seaweeds in.
Images courtesy of; loriedarlin.tumblr.com, daily mail, Pam Collins and 500px.com