Sunday, October 23, 2011

Giving Life to Seaweed

I remember only all too well my week at 'Knockadoon Marine Camp' located in Cork. I was fourteen years old, and to this day it still ranks as one of my all time favorite holidays. I learned about seaweed, upper, middle and lower zones and foraging for seaweed. Now, twenty seven years later, living in Dallas, I have rediscovered the wonders of Irish seaweed through a book called 'Irish Seaweed Kitchen' by native Irish woman, Dr Prannie Rhatigan. This book is a veritable feast for the eyes. Packed with incredible recipes, photographs and nutritional information on seaweed. Prannie was born and raised on the west coast of Ireland. In this book she reveals her experiences harvesting seaweeds with her family and explains their vital nutritional importance. We all like to eat seaweed when we dine out in Sushi Restaurants and have accepted the wide use in Asian cooking, but have we ever really given thought to the widespread availability of seaweed coming from Ireland, after all it is an island. Reading this book, Prannie's passion for this ancient source of nutrition, jumps off the page. I contacted a man in Ireland by the name of Ger Talty. Ger lives in Quilty, County Clare and is a third generation seaweed forager. I had a group of eight people from Dallas visiting Ireland and as part of their 'foodie' day in Clare, they spent the day foraging with Ger and learning how to cook with this incredible product. Ger and his family own a company called 'Spanish Point Sea Veg' They forage, dry and package the various sea weeds for consumption. As a child we used to eat dried seaweed. There was nothing unusual in that. However, I did not ever really cook or bake much with it. I simply had to try. Thanks to Ger, I had seven different bags of his 'Spanish Point Sea Veg ' and so I set about baking in my kitchen.
Leafing through Prannie's book, which has become a very good friend of mine now, I landed on her recipe for 'Banana and Alaria Loaf'. It was a Saturday morning, busy day ahead with my oldest going to his Sophomore homecoming dance, corsage to be picked up, errands to be run , all the while knowing that my boys are always hungry ! This was the perfect recipe. For those of you who love to eat Japanese wakame, then you will find this Alaria very similar. This seaweed is high in calcium and B vitamins. (wakame is used in miso soup). First I placed the Alaria on a baking sheet and dried it in the oven for a little while. In Prannie's book, there is the most beautiful bookmark, offering different suggestions for preparing the seaweed. All very easy.
For the loaf, I needed the following ingredients: 3/4 oz dried Alaria 2 eggs 4 oz golden raisins 2 tablespoons local honey (which I only use to help with allergies) 3 oz Kerrygold unsalted Irish butter, melted 2 tablespoons raw organic sugar 8 oz all purpose flour ( I like to use King Arthur, unbleached & unbromated) 2 teaspoons baking powder 3 bananas, mashed
The Alaria was soaked in 1/2 pint of water for 20 minutes, covered , then simmered over a low heat for 40 minutes. Then cooled slightly. Oven was pre heated to 350 degrees F. - First the eggs were beaten in a small bowl, raisins added, allowing them to plump. - Honey was added to the seaweed and cooking liquid - Butter was melted in a saucepan , sugar added, then cooled. Honeyed mixture and soaked raisin with eggs were added. - Flour and baking powder were mixed in a large bowl. - A large tablespoon of the flour was added to the wet mixture, then the remainder was gradually folded in. - Finally, mashed bananas were added. - Mixture was poured into a 1lb loaf tin and baked for 90 minutes. While the loaf was still hot, I drizzled a little mixture of water & confectioners sugar over the top. Mmmmmm

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this lovely story.