Season with Seaweed
Ireland’s scenic shorelines are teeming with nature’s bounty – our 500 varieties of native seaweed are deliciously nourishing, says Lesley Tumulty.
There are over 10,000 species of seaweed in the world and about 500 of these can be found on our shorelines. As a nation, we used to value this rich, natural resource. In pre-famine times there was a saying, “Potatoes, Children, Seaweed”, in order of importance of care for the Irish housewife.
We are starting to shake off the negative association of eating seaweed with poverty and famine and embrace it as a wonder food. They are generally classified into three different groups, brown, green and red, and grow on different levels of the shoreline.
I tend to forage seaweed at low tide, just once a year, towards the end of March. If there has been a storm, you can just pick up the long tresses you find on the shore. I don’t rinse or wash it, just roughly chop up with a spade and dig into the beds or drape around the base of trees and plants.
You need to be very certain the water is free of pollution, wherever you go picking. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you are sure the water is clean, bring a scissors and harvest sustainably, just give them a modest haircut and take what you need, a little goes a long way.
The Asia market, or your local health food shop, should be your ‘go to’ place to find seaweed that has been sourced in clean water and has been treated appropriately.
There are so many to choose from and have such a wide range of health benefits and uses in the kitchen. In Korean culture seaweed is like bread. I think these recipes are a nice gentle introduction to a whole new world of sea vegetables. Studies suggest that seaweeds have a protective effect in oestrogen metabolism and may provide a dietary chemoprevention in breast cancer.
However, if you are on thyroid medication talk to your GP before consuming seaweed. Use small amount of a variety of different seaweeds on a daily basis, a generous pinch into whatever you happen to be cooking at the time, stews, soups, breads even cakes. Your imagination is the only thing that’s stopping you.
This is Japan's most used condiment, it’s like their salt and pepper. Pronounced furry khaki, it is sprinkled onto sticky rice, chips, even popcorn! Nori is rich in protein , lowers LDL cholesterol, helps to lower blood pressure, is full of dietary fibre, in other words, will make you feel fuller for longer. It is also full of antioxidants, high in iron and calcium. Bonito flakes are shavings of dried, fermented, smoked tuna, easily found on line or from your local Asia market.
60g white sesame seeds
60g black sesame seeds
60g thinly sliced dried Nori seaweed
60g Bonito flakes
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tsp mirin
½ Tsp sesame oil
1 Tsp sugar
1 Tbsp. chilli flakes, optional
Pre heat oven to 150c
1 Combine the sesame seeds into a dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat until they start to pop. Tip into a bowl along with the Nori, Bonito flakes and chilli flakes, if using.
2 Drizzle the soy, mirin and sesame oil over the mixture and toss together to coat. Add the sugar and toss again.
3 Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the mixture onto the lined tray.
4 Bake for 15-20 mins or until all the liquid has dried. Keep a close eye on it as it could burn very easily.
5 Allow it to become completely cold, store it in a jar with a lid or Tupperware container. It should last 4-5 weeks.
Cheese and Dillisk scones
I remember people coming into my grandfather’s shop to buy bags of Dillisk; at least that’s how I pronounce it. Dulse or Duileasc is probably the most accessible of all our seaweeds, eaten as a tasty snack almost like a packet of crisps. It can be used to flavour soups, butter, salads, stir-fry’s, sushi or pesto.
Makes about 20 small scones.
40g dried dillisk, crumbled
Olive oil for frying
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
450g plain flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp cayenne pepper
85g butter at room temperature
225 ml milk
1 egg, beaten
85g grated strong cheddar cheese
25g grated parmesan cheese
Pre heat the oven to 210c/410f/Gas 6
Lightly greased baking tray
1 Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and garlic. Fry gently until softened and transparent, add in the dillisk towards the end, mix gently and remove from the heat.
2 Sift flour, baking powder, mustard powder, cream of tartar and cayenne pepper into a roomy bowl.
3 Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles breadcrumbs, make a well in the centre.
4 Mix the egg into the milk and pour into the well, keeping back just a little to brush over the scones later.
5 Mix gently to combine and stir in the cheddar cheese and onion mixture.
6 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; it will be quite sticky, flour your hands if necessary and flatten the dough with your hands into a rough square shape with a thickness of about 3cm.
7 Using a large sharp knife cut the dough into roughly 3cm squares. Place on the baking tray, brush with the reserved eggy/milk mixture and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Best eaten with some butter while still warm.
Scones recipe from Prannie Rhatigan’s book, Irish Seaweed Kitchen.