Seaweed might seem a strange thing to eat for some people, but many seaweeds are edible, tasty and highly nutritious, containing a source of Iodine.
While growing up in South Wales, I traditionally enjoyed Laverbread (which is a type of seaweed) with my fried breakfasts. Laverbread is harvested off the rocks, cooked and then sometimes sold in a light coating of oatmeal. It looks black and slimy when prepared but tastes incredible with bacon and eggs and is often affectionately called Welsh Caviar! I used to buy it whenever I visited Swansea Market as a Uni student. Nowadays I pop into Cardiff Market whenever I visit home, to a great fish and seafood stall there, which always has a good stock.
I moved to the West Coast of Scotland over 4 years ago and I have been lucky enough to travel around the Scottish Isles sampling local produce. I became interested again in eating seaweed and started foraging for sea lettuce and kelp while on Islay which is part of the Inner Hebrides. I felt confident I could identify both edible seaweeds and the beaches there are clean enough to forage safely.
Just a safety note about foraging, always check with an expert before eating wild or foraged food and only eat what you can confidently identify as safe to eat. In particular with edible seaweed, only harvest small amounts growing from any one area, from clean, unpolluted beaches. It might seem obvious but don’t eat dead seaweed lying on the beach.
So there I was swimming out to the rocks in my bikini on Islay to harvest a small handful of the bright green Sea Lettuce and darker Kelp at low tide. My parents who were with us on Islay, visiting local distilleries, watched with amusement and had no idea at that stage that I was foraging for our dinner! I later cooked up the most amazing Seaweed and Mushroom Risotto on the Bowmore Distillery beach for us all. My Dad was highly suspicious of eating any seaweed which he didn’t recognise as laverbread but as soon as I told him that the risotto contained a glug of Bowmore Whisky, he enjoyed every mouthful!
You may not be able to get fresh seaweed but you can always use dried seaweed sold in many health food shops, in my recipe below. I often use a brand called Mara Seaweed as a flavour enhancer and salt substitute. It is a great dried seaweed product sold in some Morrisons and M&S stores. It works just as well.
So here is the recipe and it tasted blooming lovely. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Seaweed and Mushroom Risotto with Bowmore Whisky
150g of sliced chestnut mushrooms
250g of Arborio Risotto Rice
1 small chopped onion
2 fresh garlic cloves, crushed
1 to 1.5 Litres of hot water from the kettle
1 vegetable stock cube
A teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
Half a teaspoon of dried garlic
Either a tablespoon of chopped fresh clean sea lettuce and/or kelp or a teaspoon of dried seaweed
A tablespoon of Bowmore Whisky
A heaped tablespoon of cream cheese with garlic and herbs
To serve, optional grated Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs
1. Add the rice, mushrooms, onion, fresh garlic, dried garlic, dried herbs, seaweed, stock cube and half the hot water to a large pot. Heat until simmering on the hob or over a BBQ and stir regularly, adding more hot water as it becomes absorbed by the rice.
You are aiming for a creamy consistency with the rice still having some bite. This will take around 20 to 25 min.
2. Towards the end of the cooking, stir in the cream cheese and whisky then heat through gently for a minute or so.
3. Serve in bowls and top with optional grated fresh Parmesan cheese and herbs.
4. If you have any of the Whisky left then drink that with the Risotto, it will also enhance the flavour of the meal!