Seaweed sandwich, anyone?

If your consumption of sea vegetables thus far on your culinary journey has been limited to a bit of sushi from the supermarket, then you’re missing out. Whether it’s for flavour or health, seaweed is a fantastic food to add to your diet, and best of all, it doesn’t have to be from imported sources at the health food shop or oriental market. Our shores are teeming with varieties of seaweed that are not just edible, but absolutely delicious too.

Even more surprisingly, those of you who are currently thinking that seaweed is the last thing that you would want to eat may change your minds when you taste dulse, one of our most commonly found varieties – it tastes like bacon when it’s cooked. Maybe not as convincing as a bacon sandwich, but still, not exactly what you might expect.

So, what is it, and how do we make the most of this natural harvest right on our doorstep? Dulse is part of a large family of edible saltwater plants and algae that also include more readily known varieties like nori and kelp. Like all edible seaweed, dulse provides a wealth of nutrients, fibre and protein, rich in vitamins, trace minerals, healthy fatty acids, and antioxidants.

It’s easy to buy dried dulse, and as its nutritional value doesn’t degrade after it’s converted into powder or flakes, having some on hand to sprinkle into salads, soups and stews is convenient. Store it in a dry and dark place and it’ll last for at least two years, making it truly a go-to health booster to use in all kinds of ways.

The assumption that seaweed will taste a bit too, well, seaweedy, has doubtless put many people off trying it at all, but with the accessibility, sustainability, and variety of uses, surely it’s something that we need to consider as conscious consumers. The big bonus is in the health benefits – while all natural foods have distinct and purposeful nutrient profiles, seaweed is a truly exceptional all rounder. Just some of the health benefits of dulse include its ability to protect vision, boost the immune system, build bone health, optimise the function of the thyroid gland, increase growth and repair, support the gastrointestinal tract, lower blood pressure, strengthen the brain and nervous system, and boost circulation.

A fantastic food, and a great focus for your next beach visit! To achieve that bacon-like effect, pan-fry some dried whole-leaf dulse with oil over medium-high heat until crisp, then make up your dish or sandwich. Delicious!

Another way to use dulse, or any other seaweed that you have chosen, is to cut strips from a sheet, or take some larger flakes, and allow them to float gently in this lovely broth. Health in a bowl!

Miso Broth

miso paste (authentic paste from an oriental market)
pak choi, each leaf sliced in half lengthwise
sliced greens or cabbage
red pepper, thinly sliced
garlic, very thinly slivered
ginger, very thinly slivered
good quality bone broth or stock of your choice
seaweed strips
chicken, fish, beef or tofu pieces

Pour the required amount of bone broth or stock into a pan, bring to a gentle simmer, and add a teaspoon or two of miso paste, stirring to dissolve. Add the garlic, ginger, meat/fish/tofu, and sliced veg and simmer very gently for a few minutes until the veg is just tender and the meat is cooked through. Add the seaweed and turn off the heat, allowing the seaweed to steep for a couple of minutes. Serve up in big bowls and enjoy!