Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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I've been reading in this Saturday's Guardian how Thomasina Miers has been supping lots of soup so far this year, and I feel like saying 'me too', though not for the same reasons many women have validly and valiantly been saying this across continents.

Tommi Mier's restaurant chain Wahaca specialise in Mexican food, and while this isn't a Mexican dish, it is definitely inspired by the spicy punch that Mexican food often has. My me too is about supping soups. Soups that are warming, healthy and bring people together, especially on a cold March morning. It's been cold, too cold and soup is the perfect remedy, this one's got a chilli kick to get your inner fire going, if it isn't already by the outrageous scale of the #metoo movement and the injustices it highlights.

Back to the soup.

Fresh Kelp, Oarweed, Laminaria digitata

This soup using 3 locally foraged seaweeds;

  • Kelp (Laminaria digitata)
  • Sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima)
  • Sea spaghetti or Thongweed (Himanthalia elongata)

These could also be substituted for a mixture of;

  • any kelp seaweed (Dabberlocks, Oarweed, Furbelows, Wakame),
  • any wrack seaweed (Bladder wrack, Serrated or Toothed, Spiralled)
  • pepper dulse could also be used instead of black pepper for one layer of the 'kick'.

Oh, by the way, kelp is called kombu in Japan, and the basis of this soup is similar to a vegan version of dashi stock which combines kombu and shitake mushrooms (and omits bonito flakes which are fish).

There is lots, lots more I could say about seaweed, and soups, though here I'll keep it simple and just offer you this recipe.

Thongweed, Kelp and Sugar Kelp soakingThongweed, Kelp, Sugar Kelp

(Soaking the seaweed and straining off the ingredients for making the broth)

Three Seaweed Soup

A warming broth which is so simple to make and is great on its own or can be used as a base for a noodle soup or more of a substantial soup, broth or stew.

Ingredients

  • 12cm length of dried kelp (or 1/3 more if fresh)
  • 12 cm length of dried sugar kelp (or 1/3 more if fresh)
  • 10cm single length of sea spaghetti (or 1/3 more if fresh)
  • 2 litres boiling water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3cm chunk of ginger root, chopped
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • small handful of dried chanterelle mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • soy sauce to taste

Cut all of the seaweeds into small pieces and place in a large pan. Add the boiling water, then all the rest of the ingredients, except the soy sauce. Place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 40 minutes. Place the mixture in a food processor and blend till the pieces are broken down, or strain if you prefer a clear broth. Add the soy sauce to taste. Serves 6 as a small bowl of soup, or 12 as a small starter/taster.

Seaweed broth with thongweed, kelp and sugar kelp

The finished Broth, before I ladle it into a hot food flask and take it to the beach to share with participants on a seaweed foraging course.

I'm often asked;  what seaweed can you eat? What about this stuff (pointing to the piles of spewed up seaweed on the beach that's been turfed up by the powerful, stormy Winter waves). Hmm, no wonder people are put off eating seaweed.

Not all seaweed is good to eat. Perhaps you've heard me say this many a time; pick seaweed that is fresh, cutting it fresh ensures you know how fresh and old it is. The old, decomposing seaweed is good for compost, though not for eating. There is one exception though: After a storm.

Although it is easy to tell decomposing to freshly cut. Personally, I'm still not intimate enough with seaweed to know if seaweed is just freshly broken off by the storm, or has been 2 or 3 days floating at sea. I go by eye, feel and stay on the safe side. In other words, I prefer to harvest seaweed that is attached.

I have many favourite seaweeds (or my favourites keep changing), and one of these is Sugar Kelp (Saccharina latissima), and yes, it is a combination of sweet and salty. I've spent many hours at the lowest tides searching for this seaweed, though mostly, it has alluded me. I know it is there in abundance - plenty times have I seen it washed up on the shore, though often it grows just a little deeper than a low, low tide, and I'm not a diver, not even a snorkeler anymore. Though to my my surprise, it was a storm that brought Sugar Kelp closer and fresher to me.

Can you eat seaweeds that have been washed up after a storm?

Seaweed needs to be attached, through a 'holdfast' (seaweed's equivalent to a root) in order to live. This could be attached to another seaweed, rocks, stones or shells/shellfish. In this case, the storm had thrown up young Sugar Kelp, attached to small stones, so still living - hurray!

Never had foraging Sugar Kelp felt so easy, and the freshness still guaranteed. Walking along the beach, at a medium low tide, I was able to harvest this seaweed and dry it at home for soups and desserts. Below are Apple and Sugar Kelp Turnovers from my Seaweed book . This seaweed has particularly good amounts of magnesium and calcium, and used to be chewed dried by children as salty 'sweeties'.

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