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In my early years on Sherkin we collected seaweed from the beach to fertilise our land. Believe it or not we also experimented with feeding it to pigs – they loved it. However, in my 40 years on the island we never used seaweed in the kitchen. This wonderful book, with its many recipes shows what we have missed. The author is a medical doctor who has been harvesting and cooking seaweed, and gardening organically, since childhood. She begins the book with a quick guide to the health benefits and culinary uses of seaweed and then goes on to show how to prepare the various species. In the first chapter Stock and Soups, she gives a basic sea and land vegetable stock which can be used for any recipe requiring vegetable stock in the book. The chapter also features delicious-sounding recipes, from “nettle soup with Alaria seaweed”, to “roasted red pepper and red lentil soup” to “herb and vegetable broth with Duileasc and cheese”.
The chapter on Starters and Light Lunches, includes “Memories of Sleabhac”, the author’s wonderful childhood memories of harvesting this seaweed. Sleabhac is described as the perfect boost to the system and a great way to help the body fight off infection during the winter months. In the chapter Salad and Vegetables, the recipes “beetroot and sea lettuce salad” and “popeye’s gratin” highlight Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca), 100g of which can provide up to 35% of vitamin B12 for adults. What about a basic seaweed smoothie, with Alaria, banana, pineapple and honey to give a great green boost in one glass. Other chapters show that seaweed can be used in many other fascinating recipes including breads, cakes, desserts and puddings.
If you are unfamiliar with the names of the various seaweeds you can eat, the final chapter “edible seaweeds” has wonderful photographs of the various species, as well as details about where and when you can find them. The author also provides nutritional charts/range of values of each seaweed. Being a medical doctor, the author gives sound advice that the book is not intended to substitute any treatment or advice given by your medical practitioner. She also states that if you are on thyroid medication to consult your practitioner before consuming seaweed.
For all those who have always wanted to try cooking with seaweed, this recipe book will take the trepidation out of it. It’s a beautiful publication and would make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in cooking with these natural ingredients.
Irish Seaweed Kitchen by Prannie Rhatigan. Published by Booklink (2009) and available online at www.prannie.com ISBN: 978-1-906886-22-6. Price: €35.00.