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Seaweed supper

I wrote this article in 2014 for Style of Wight Magazine:

Living on an island, you're never further than a few miles from a beach. To many people that might mean a seaside stroll, wild swim, or rock-pooling and sandcastle-building with their children. But ever since I discovered the culinary delights of seaweed, to me it means food.

Incredibly, there are over thirty-two edible varieties of common seaweed. But though it grows abundantly on Britain's rocky shoreline, we are more likely to eat it wrapped around sushi than to cook it up at home. Yet as a protein-packed, mineral-rich foodstuff, seaweed is exceptionally nutritious. So next time you're looking for a vegetable accompaniment, or an alternative to fish 'n' chips, nip down to your nearest beach for some of this freely available, scrumptious superfood. Start with the most appetising species, such as Kelp, Dulse or vivid green Gutweed which (despite its off-putting name) is delicious. And as with any foraging, only snip a small amount from each source, and never uproot a plant, or there'll be none left to harvest on your next beach outing.

At its simplest, you can just blitz the clean and dried seaweed in a blender, and use the raw flakes as a salty condiment (try it scattered over salads, fish or noodles). The recipe below is for the type of seaweed side order you might find in a Japanese restaurant.

CRISPY FRIED GUTWEED

Ingredients

  • Gutweed
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame seeds
  • Caster sugar to taste

Method

  1. Wash your seaweed well. Fill a sink with fresh water and leave the seaweed to soak for about 15 minutes, swilling it about to loosen any sand or debris.
  2. Drain seaweed in a colander.
  3. Lay seaweed on a tray and place in an oven on the lowest setting (50 C). If it's a sunny day and not too breezy, you can lay the seaweed out on tea-cloths in the garden to dry.
  4. Ensure seaweed is thoroughly dry before you cook it, otherwise it will spit fiercely when cooked.
  5. Heat some sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan. Fry the seaweed in small batches – it only takes a few seconds to crisp up. Place on absorbent kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.
  6. In a separate frying pan, dry-toast the sesame seeds until they turn golden.
  7. Dress the crispy seaweed with some toasted sesame seeds. Eat while still warm.
If you're inspired by the idea of seaside foraging, do read John Wright's fabulous book Edible Seashore. It's packed with foraging how-to info, as well as some great recipes, and unexpectedly humorous insights from the River Cottage regular.

Last updated 10:19 on 8 April 2018

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