Everywhere I look, people are going crazy for seaweed. All across twitter, bright young things are discussing what to do with their nori, dulse and wakame and extolling the health benefits of these versatile sea vegetables – checking off antioxidants, vitamins and iodine, to name but a few.
Bread of Heaven
Yet down here in West Wales, we’ve known all this for years. Our local variety of laver, when boiled and rolled with oats to create “laverbread”, is loved with a passion usually reserved for 15 men in red with odd shaped balls.
Iron-rich, salty and with a slight oyster flavour, laverbread is fantastically versatile. Indeed so revered is this national dish, Richard Burton declared seaweed to be “Welshman’s caviar”, and frankly if it was good enough for Dickie, it’s good enough for me.
“That’s all very well, Nic, but what the bleeding hell do you do with it?” Here are a few of my favourites.
The Full Welsh
Give your breakfast more oomph than the chorus in a Bonnie Tyler power ballad by adding some laverbread and Penclawdd cockles next to your bacon and eggs.
Or why not spread a thick layer on toast and top with cheese before flashing it under a hot grill for a quick meat-free treat (this is especially tasty after a couple of pints).
Nothing says springtime in Wales more than a rack of perfectly pink lamb. Except, that is, a rack of lamb with a laverbread and parsley crumb. Blitz a couple of slices of bread in the food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs, adding some minced garlic and chopped parsley. Spread the laverbread atop the lamb, pressing the herbed crumb on top and roast until pink. Serve with Blas y Tir Rudolph potatoes and buttered leeks for the perfect Welsh Sunday roast.
Plenty of Fish in the Sea
“What grows together, goes together”, or so they say. So is it any wonder that fish and laverbread are such a winning combination. Laverbread makes a wonderful addition to a butter and shallot sauce, served with everything from monkfish to sewin.
Or stir your sauce through hot pasta with clams and a generous dusting of Parmesan for an explosion of umami flavours.
Fresh is best but if your local fishmonger doesn’t stock it then you can often find it canned at your local supermarket. Laverbread has quite a distinct flavour and a little goes a long way.
If in doubt, pair it with salty bacon, lamb or sweet shellfish likes cockles, clams and scallops.
Seaweeds pair brilliantly with champagnes so use it as an excuse to pop open a bottle of fizz