Last weekend we spent some time at the Burren Slow Food Festival in Lisdoonvarna. Invited down by Birgitta Curtin from the Burren Smokehouse to give a cookery demonstration on the Saturday, we stayed at the Wild Honey Inn, a fantastic little guesthouse with some amazing food on offer. The whole weekend was full of wonderful people and delicious dishes but the highlight for me was a trip to Spanish Point for some seaweed foraging. Having never really cooked or eaten seaweed apart from a bit of samphire which I've picked up in some of the fishmongers in Howth, I was intrigued by this wonderfully healthy and most importantly free ingredient! Ger Talty from Spanish Point Sea Veg has been collecting seaweed on the west coast of Ireland for many years and it's a practice which has been handed down through the generations. Ger remembers bringing tons of it in from the shore to be used as fertiliser for crops and laughs that it's nothing like the quantity he has to collect for the convenient 50g packets he now sells in supermarkets.
We started off with a walkthrough of the basic types of seaweed to look out for including Dillisk, Carrageen, Wakame, Sugar Kelp, Kelp and Nori, all of which can be found on our shores. After our introduction to the various varieties we headed down to the shore to search for them. Ger spoke passionately about seaweed and plucked bits straight out of the water for us to try, each one completely different in taste and texture. If nothing else I've been convinced that I need to start using more seaweed in the kitchen. We headed back to the warehouse where they dry the seaweed on racks and we finally got a taste of the different varieties in some dishes. Ger's whole family was out in force handing around Irish brown bread with Dillisk through it, Carageen Moss pudding and a lovely warming Seaweed Seafood Chowder. We were sent off with a bag full of all the varieties which I got busy experimenting with as soon as I got home. This dish is a very simple one using the sea spaghetti, which is incredibly high in iron. The whole dish is quick to prepare, an easy way to include a bit of seaweed in your diet. Ger's dried seaweed can be found in lots of supermarkets around the country. Email email@example.com or find them on Facebook for more details on what to look out for.
This is wonderfully simple little supper. There is a bit of an Asian twist with the salad, which makes it almost like a pickle but it's full of wonderful texture. If you can't get sea spaghetti you could substitute some finely shredded cabbage.
1 fillet of hake per person
A knob of butter
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into long fine strips
50g of dried sea spaghetti
4 large spring onions
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Sea salt to taste
Cook the sea spaghetti in boiling water for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain under cold water and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and rice wine vinegar until it has dissolved. Mix in the sesame oil and salt.
Add the sea spaghetti, spring onion and carrot to the dressing. Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour.
Place a large non stick frying pan over a medium high heat and add in a little oil to coat the pan.
Fry the fish for 2-3 minutes on either side until it is cooked through and no longer translucent. When you turn the fish, add a little butter into the pan with a tablespoon of water and cover for the remaining cooking time.
Serve alongside a portion of the sea spaghetti salad and finally sprinkle the whole dish with toasted sesame seeds.