The search for superfoods is neverending. But could a cheap, nutritious food with superpowers be clinging to a rock near you?
WHY IS SEAWEED GOOD FOR YOU?
Let us count the ways; Iodine, Potassium, B Vitamins, Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron. Edible seaweed is like a potpourri of nutrients, the Captain America of Superfoods (i.e., the best one). Celebrity chefs are lauding its potential, those quick to sniff an opportunity are promoting its lifestyle benefits. Ignore the PR plaudits and focus on the studies. One from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne said it’s good for digestive health, another nutritionist found seaweed is high in nutrients but low in calories. A third study in Kyoto University said it can help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of strokes, based on tests on animals. Seaweed, essentially, should be wearing a cape it’s that super.
There’s plenty of different kinds of seaweeds with different textures and flavours. Seaweed, just in the waters off the UK, comes in over 600 varieties. Classified as red, green or brown where dulse is red, sea lettuce and gutweed are green and Kombu and sea spaghetti are brown. What you buy will depend on taste, and also how long you have to cook and prepare.
Laver, for example, can take several hours to boil and turn into mush to mean laverbread or soup.
What’s the point of buying it from a nearby multinational supermarket when there’s all that seaweed in the sea for free?
PICK YOUR OWN
What’s the point of buying it from a nearby multinational supermarket when there’s all that seaweed in the sea for free? Chris Bax from Taste the Wild has a lot to say about seaweed.
“One of the best places to forage seaweed is the Yorkshire coast. The rocky foreshore makes it ideal. You get different seaweed, when the tide is at the top of the tidal range. When the tide is all the way out the kelp forest is exposed”.
Obviously, if you’re heading out check the tide times and give yourself plenty of time to get back to shore.
As with every kind of pick your own, though, you need to know what to look for. This is not like mushrooms, though, where you can have either a risotto ingredient, acid trip or rapidly reduced life expectancy depending on different species; “if the seaweed is attached to a rock it cannot be poisonous, there’s nothing poisonous around the UK”, says Chris Bax. However, though, he says there are things to remember.
“Check on the water quality and check with the environment agency for any reports on beaches. You should go to areas washed well by the tide rather than inlays where there is debris or froth build up. Instead opt for seaweed that’s been in water battered by the rocks a little more. Avoid anything just floating around on the beach”.
Just check tide times and give yourself plenty of time.
Try Atlantic Kitchen’s range of seaweed products including a Sea Spaghetti, which has a subtle mild taste that works in traditional pasta or noodle dishes, dried Dulse has a smoky flavour and Wakame Seaweed’s known as the ‘spinach of the seaʼ. Get them at natreco.com.
FULL OF FLAVOUR
Each kind of seaweed has a different flavour. Dashi seaweed is what gives Asian food that umami flavour, think miso soup or a noodle broth. It makes an excellent Japanese stock. Dulse seaweed, on the other hand works well in savoury baking, match it with cheese for an unexpected duo. Carrageen, or Irish moss, is an ideal setting agent as an alternative to gelatin. If you want to reduce Carrageen’s flavour then leave it out in the sun to bleach it a little. Shony powdered seaweed can be bought from specialist food shops and is ideally sprinkled over soups. It also matches very well with citrus fruit so try it over a lemon tart. If you’re foraging seaweed rinse it several times in clean water before you cook it.
300g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
60g fresh Pepper Dulse
60g mature cheddar cheese, grated
Milk to mix
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the butter and rub it in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
Wash and dry the Pepper Dulse then chop it into small pieces about 3mm across. Add to the
flour mixture along with the grated cheese. Stir in enough milk to give a soft, light dough
(about 150ml). Don’t over mix at this stage, just enough to bring it together.
On a floured worktop press out the dough to a thickness of 2cm. Cut rounds with a 5cm cutter, place on to a greased baking tray and brush with a little egg or milk. Bake for about 12-15 minutes at 220C/gas mark 7 then cool on a wire rack.
Serve hot with soup or a smoked fish stew.
For more recipes from Taste the Wild or to book onto one of their foraging courses go to
Richard Burton called this Welshman’s caviar.
600g fresh laver seaweed
3 tbsp olive oil
1tsp lemon juice
4 slices of bread
Rinse the seaweed. Over a low heat simmer the seaweed for around 5-7 hours until it becomes a dark mush. Mince or puree it to remove any lumps or bumps.
Mix the laverbread, olive oil and lemon juice in the pan and season to taste.
Spoon on top of hot buttered toast and serve immediately.
Boil the laver down for several hours to turn it to mush so you can mince or pureee it. Coat it in oatmeal and then fry in a shallow pan.