January 15, 2012 §
Biongiorno everyone. I have chosen to dedicate my first blog to seaweed…..because there is so darned much of it…and as both a strict hypochondriac of most ailments and a one time user of ‘crème de la mer’ – I know it’s the good stuff.
After doing some research on the island and on the internet I have discovered the following: 1) seaweed contains all 56 vitamins and minerals you need to live (no other plant boasts the same), containing 25 times the nutrients of land vegetables 2) it is said to be an anti-ageing ingredient used in numerous beauty products and supplements and 3) the high iodine content is believed to help prevent cancer by stimulating the thyroid gland – with particular reference to breast cancer *.
This said, no one on Mull that I have spoken to actually seems to know anything about seaweed or what to look for. They do however know of an old recipe used by the elders… a recipe that combines my two greatest fears – milk and gelatine. (milk as I am intolerant/repulsed by dairy – and gelatine as I have had some difficult experiences with wartime dishes made almost entirely from aspic with floating sprouts, hotdogs and bits of cheese – courtesy of ma famille).
Consequently – with the help of the world wide web I found ‘Wild Man Wild Food
‘ – by Fergus Drennan (a prestiged forager) which is a pretty informative site dedicated to all wild food, and I settled on finding Dulse and Sea Lettuce (2 very common edible varieties).
Fergus does recommend that one should purchase a book before scouring the shore…but not wishing to be restrained by the confines of Amazon – I choose to go it alone ..(with Ian). So at low tide we ventured down with a Tesco polythene bag (moi), and a bucket (Ian) – his bucket adorably filled up with fishing equipment. After trudging through relentless slippery mounds of eggsack weed… we lucked out and found a few wisps of sea lettuce tangled up amongst some other reeds.
With no Dulse in sight and slightly disillusioned – I dragged behind Ian as he scaled the rocks at pace to find a fishing spot. I am slow on the rocks. He is not. It’s annoying. When I did eventually catch him he had found a sweet alcove from which to cast out. And even better – there was a whole crop of dark red Dulse growing out of the rockpools ! I gathered this up with my knife and plastic bag and was ready to leg it for home – when Ian reminded me of my duty to watch him fish. On his first cast the line got caught on the weeds. On his second cast he lost his bait entirely in the reeds. So reluctantly he agreed to come home with me…
After harvesting the seaweed and attempting to dry it in the kitchen (it stinks) – I have used it in every recipe since including lentil soup (this did not really work..it tasted of fishy lentils), ottolenghi’s sweet potato cakes
(totally delicious), chickpea burgers
(again scrumptious) and have put it in all of our salads. I would say the Dulse was particularly good and the sea lettuce a little too potent for my liking… but overall a success in that the Dulse can substitute some of the salt/stock in a recipe and absorbs the other flavours around it resulting in chewy, crispy, caramalised bits of goodness.
However – it is worth being cautious with your quantity to prevent overpowering any dish and consequently I was left with a fair bit to get through…. So I decided to make it into a face mask…well why the hell not ?!
I just used the 1st face mask recipe I found online and added…my seaweed.
Recipe: Make a mixture of one egg yolk, one teaspoon honey, one teaspoon olive oil and one teaspoon vitamin E oil or baby oil (optional) + seaweed.
I would make the following points about this having experienced it first hand:
- It is a bit of a struggle not to retch with egg congealing on your face mixed with strong smelling seaweed.
- I felt stupid… so in fact I hid in the bathroom for 20 minutes fearful that Ian would come in and launch a somewhat humiliating attack on my appearance.
- I realise now that I should perhaps have blended the seaweed with the mixture in the Magimix to create a seaweed dust rather than the mottled appearance I did achieve.
However 20 mins later – there is no denying it – I look… c.l.e.a.n.
As a final note I think it is important to give a mention to the traditional Scottish/Mulloch recipe for Carrageen seaweed for you milk and gelatine lovers:
- ½ lb. (250g) dried Carrageen (Chondrus) – washed and soaked for 2 hours.
- 1Pt (500ml) milk.
- Grated lemon rind.
- Sugar to taste.
1) Place the seaweed in a pan with the lemon rind and cover with the milk.
2) Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
3) Stir in sugar then strain into a wet mould and allow to cool.
4) Once set, turn out.
Au revoir dudes.
*The iodine content in seaweed and its link to thyroid stimulation and cancer is a point I have just had confirmed by Professor Frithjof Kuepper
(Chair in Marine Biodiversity at the University of Aberdeen) – specialist in seaweed and its iodine content – who by chance came over to dinner last night at my hosts in Edinburgh…what luck – it’s as if he KNEW I was about to do this blog !