Our dear Oprah is already a massive fan of these ocean vegetables. We Irish seem to think it’s only useful for deflecting annoying children on the beach. In fact, seaweed is full of anti-aging nutrients and disease-fighting lignans.
Check this out! Sea veggie’s cargo of calcium is great for bones, without the artery-clogging effects that dairy-rich diets can yield.
Then there’s iron – even 10g mixed sea vegetables can give you just under half the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of this blood-building mineral.
There are many types of sea vegetables to choose from, guaranteed to make Inchydoney more exciting this year. Here’s a few to get you started. All are harvested wild, free from chemicals, preservatives, and yes, sometimes taste (that’s why it’s best to stir through curries and salads).
The most common type of sea vegetable on our menus is Nori the shiny green wrapping around sushi. Nori is particularly rich in protein. You’ll get loads of nori in Asian food stores for a fraction of the high street price. Best crumbled on top of brown rice and serve with soya sauce.
Agar flakes are used in place of artificial stabilisers and gelling agents. I use them to set panna cotta and fruit jellies – a crafty way of getting important minerals into children’s party food.
We always add wakame to stews about 30 minutes before cooking is finished. It brings a good smack of umami for the taste buds, as well as a suite of fancy minerals. Like most ocean veg, a packet of wakame will last three years in the cupboard.
Kombu and Kelp are the dark ones that gave me nightmares as a nipper. In fact, they are just thick, slippery strands of goodness. Who would have thought? Pop them into slow-cooking stews at the very beginning. I find they can take a long time to break down. It’s rumoured that adding kombu to beans can help reduce the incidences of trouser-trumpets. That’s Latin for flatulence.
Dulse & dillisk is particular to Ireland. This sea veggie has a chewy texture and deep purple hue. We get ours ground down to fine powdery flakes from Sea of Vitality and sprinkle on top of sticky brown rice. Intrepid cooks play with it in broths and soups. Cornucopia Café have an excellent one on their menu on Wicklow Street, Dublin 2. I’m happy to queue 20 minutes to get it. From the looks of things, so is everyone else.
Finally, arame is the sweetest and most elegant of the sea vegetables. Jet-black angel strands of goodness. No need to cook. Simply soak for 10 minutes, and socialise them with broccoli, Brazil nuts and soya sauce for a speedy lunch, or with sautéed garlic mushrooms as a side. I like to spoon it through hummus for my boys who are none the wiser.