Sally McKenna has just published a book that really needed to be written, it’s called Extreme Greens and it’s all about seaweed and sea vegetables, how to find them, how to identify, how to harvest sustainably, how to cook, how to preserve, it’s great…
Now that the changed economic climate has, among other things, prompted us to reflect on the wild and free foods around us, both in the countryside and along the seashore, there is a hunger for knowledge and urge to relearn the forgotten skill of how to identify food in the wild, so Sally’s book is certainly timely. Seaweed has been a part of the Irish diet right back to prehistoric times, nowadays we are discovering through research what our ancestors knew through experience. “Seaweed is a superfood that can regulate our metabolism and with it our energy levels; it cleanses the blood, and stimulates our immune system.
Seaweed has both prebiotics and probiotics and helps calm the digestive tract. It protects against bacterial and viral infection and brings with it a punch of natural antibiotics. It maintains a healthy cellular function both within the body and on the skin, where it also protects and soothes. Even just taking a bath in seaweed brings all these benefits. Eating it even more so.”
So why are we not eating more seaweed and how can we get our children excited about it?
Our own children and many of the grandchildren have been weaned on to Carrageen moss pudding but Sally has made a brilliant discovery “Seaweed in a powdered form can take on the flavour of anything you put it with, so a tablespoon of dilisk in a casserole, or even a cake, will not be taste detected by a fussy child. The benefits of seaweed are long term and that’s how they should be considered. The secret is to take small amounts, regularly.”
The first 30 pages give details and instructions on how to recognise and harvest the many edible sea weeds around the coast so now I’m off down to Shanagarry Strand to see what I can find.
Extreme Greens, Understanding Seaweeds is published by Estragon Press.
Sally McKenna’s Gubbeen and Wild Sea Beet Pizza with Sea Grass
This recipe is directly inspired by the pizza cooked in Good Things Café, in Durrus, in West Cork. Sally McKenna has done some seaweed demonstrations at Carmel Somers’ cookery school at the café, and it was during one of these that they discovered how delicious sea grass is as a topping for pizza and cheese.
500g strong white flour
10g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Olive oil, sea beet leaves, Gubbeen cheese (you can also use Durrus, or any of the other semi-soft cheeses), nutmeg and sea grass.
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Mix in the water, and bring together to make a dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. This kneading can be done in various mixers, processors or in a bread machine.
Allow the dough to rise for about 2 hours, then shape into 6 balls of dough.
Preheat the oven to its hottest temperature.
Take each ball at a time and first press into a circle, then roll out thinly. Using a pizza peel, or your fingers, place on a hot oven tray. Rub the surface quickly with a little olive oil and scatter over the raw sea beet leaves (you can substitute spinach if unable to gather sea beet). Top with slices of cheese, and then sprinkle over the sea grass, and a generous grating of nutmeg.
Cook in a hot oven (as hot as it will go) for approximately 5-7 minutes. Serve straight from the oven.
Sally McKenna’s Channelled Wrack and Ginger Miso Slaw
1 head red cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
¼ red onion, peeled and grated
salt and pepper
handful channelled wrack
tablespoon sesame seeds
¼ cup white miso
3 tablespoons rice syrup (or other natural sweetener)
¼ cup mirin
3 tablespoons sesame oil
juice of half a lemon
knob of grated ginger
Mix together the cabbage, carrot and onion in a large bowl. Season. Toss well to evenly distribute the onion.
Blend the dressing ingredients together until smooth. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Put a saucepan of water on to boil and simmer the channelled wrack for approximately five minutes. Chop the seaweed into bite-size lengths.
Toss the cabbage mixture in approximately half of the dressing (save the remainder in the fridge for another salad).
Stir in the seaweed, and scatter over the sesame seeds.
Sally McKenna’s Seaweed Crackers
230g plain/spelt flour
20g rye flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup finely ground seaweed
sesame seeds / fennel seeds (optional)
Measure out the flour, salt, sugar and butter into a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Measure out the milk, put it into the bowl and gather the mixture together with your hands.
Knead and put it in the fridge to rest for 2 hours. Lightly grease a tray and set the oven to 180ºC.
Flour a large workspace.
Cut the dough into 6 equal-sized pieces.
Press lightly on the piece of dough. Sprinkle on the seaweed and seeds and press again. Examples of combinations might be sea grass and fennel, or dried seaweed salad with sesame seeds.
Put through a pasta machine on the widest setting.
Lightly press in some more seeds or seaweed and roll again. Continue until the second last setting on the machine.
Cut into approximate squares, and place onto a tray, using a spatula to lift the delicate pieces.
Bake in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, until light brown. Cool on a wire tray.
Sally McKenna’s Dilisk and Rosemary Lemonade
1 litre water
handful of dilisk
3 sprigs rosemary
sparkling water or boiling water
Make a dilisk dashi by bringing the water and dilisk slowly to the boil. Remove the seaweed the moment the water comes to the boil (consign the boiled dilisk to the compost heap).
Add the rosemary and sugar to the seaweed water and once again bring very slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Take off the heat once it comes to the boil, and leave to go cold and then strain. This syrup forms the base of your drink. You can store it for a few days in the fridge and add the lemon juice and water as needed.
To make the lemonade, pour a little of the syrup into a glass. Add approximately half a lemon per glass and fill up with chilled sparkling water, or boiling water to taste. The proportions are approximately five to one water to syrup, or to taste.
The 59th Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival is on 26th – 29th September 2013 – seafood trails, oyster hot spots, oyster opening (shucking) championships including the Oyster ‘Olympics’ or World Oyster Opening Championship, foodie talks and tasting events, food producer tours, an intimate Food village at The Festival Marquee, a Mardi Gras style Gala Event through the streets of Galway…for full program visit www.galwayoysterfestival.com
Macroom’s inaugural Food festival will take place from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th of September, 2013 – see www.macroomfoodfestival.com for program.
An Afternoon of Knife Skills at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Knife skills are essential, not just for professionals but for anyone who wishes to learn how to cook really well. Use your newfound skills to cook under the guidance of the teachers and then sit down to enjoy a light supper at the end of the afternoon – Friday 27th September 2 – 5:30pm – www.cookingisfun.ie to book.
East Cork Slow Food Event – Want to know more about the GM issue – Josef Finke from Ballybrado Organic Farm will talk on GM technology and the implications for the food sector. Tuesday September 24th at 7pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Proceeds to raise funds for the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project Field Kitchen. €6.00 Slow Food members €8.00 non-members – tea/coffee and a homemade biscuit from 6:30pm – phone 021 4646785