Forward-looking chefs are always on the look out for new and exciting ingredients to liven up their menus and sea vegetables are slowly becoming the next big thing. They are also a great idea if you need to introduce a salty sensation on the plate and impress your guests.
Sea vegetables packed with iron, calcium, iodine and vitamins might be fashionable right now but Archaeologists claim sea vegetables have been eating in Asia for about 10,000 years. In Majorca, many cooks are starting to experiment with a wild sea fennel known locally as “Fenoll Mari”.
It grows all around the Island’s coastal areas and it is generally pickled in vinegar and served as a traditional garnish with a classic “Pa amb oli”(Bread with tomatoes). It shares flavour characteristics with the herbal fennel, specifically a slight anise taste and herbaceous scent.
As sea herbs go, sea fennel is one of the more versatile. Its fern-like leaves offer an elegant garnish, and when used in puréed and pickled applications its flavour really shines. At Marc Fosh restaurant we often make a sea fennel & green apple jelly to serve with marinated sardines and a chilled almond & olive oil soup. It’s a delicious combination!
Sometimes known as poor man’s asparagus or sea asparagus, Samphire is without doubt my favourite sea vegetable.
It is called “salicornia” here in Spain and grows abundantly on the shorelines of northern Europe. I have fond memories of spending long days picking samphire on the east coast of England as a child. It has a crisp texture and tastes of the sea.
It is particularly useful for vegetarians and vegans who want that seafood taste without the animal ingredients. It works really well all types of fish, eggs and roast lamb or chicken. It also makes the most wonderful risotto! When you buy or find sea fennel and samphire, wash them thoroughly under running water before use. Don’t add salt to the cooking water, as it’s already salty enough.
Creamy Bomba rice with sea fennel & soller prawns
- 250g Soller prawns, peeled
- 30g fresh sea fennel, finely chopped
- 1l fish or shellfish stock (use the heads from the prawns)
- 100g finely grated mahon cheese
- 300g Bomba rice
- 1tbsp Chopped chives
- 1tbsp crème fraiche
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 shallot chopped finely
- 1 crushed clove of garlic
1 Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a thick-bottomed pan, heat and add shallots and garlic. Sweat gently until they start to break down.
2 Add the rice, sea fennel and stir. Add a little hot fish stock until the rice is just covered continue to stir until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
3 Over a medium heat, continue to add the stock gradually and stir until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice has softened. Add the peeled prawns, crème fraiche, grated mahon cheese and season to taste.
4The rice should be light and creamy. Stir in the olive oil & butter and garnish with fresh sea fennel leaves.