Visiting a beach, particularly one in Gower unleashes in me an uncontrollable urge to forage, had we been self catering I’d be there with a bucket hunting for cockles, I don’t think the hotel would appreciate a couple of buckets of molluscs in the bathroom but if there’s one thing this area is known for it’s the glorious sea weed known as laver.
Buying this stuff inland isn’t cheap or easy – you have to search for it and it’s usually only available in tins – which are ok for a bit of culinary curiosity but a little bland compared to the fresh thing.
It doesn’t look like much, out of the water it has the appearance of shreds of bin liner clinging to the rocks but this translucent red sea weed is worth the effort to collect, especially since the effort required is minimal.
Wandering around the beach watching the dog attempt to drink from rock pools, eat sand and avoid the waves, we picked a couple of freezer bags full. It’s edible raw but it might be crunchier than you’d like as it comes with a hell of a lot of sand – a good rinse in fresh water is a plan.
The raw texture is unusual but not by any means unpleasant – the fronds may be transparent and soft as tissue but to the bite they’re actually crunchy with a hint of olive.
I also grabbed a bit of kelp for crispy frying and a small handful of carrageenan for brewing.Traditionally laver is boiled for hours until forms a green paste, this harkens back to pre fridge days when it could be potted and stored for a couple of weeks. As a breakfast item you’ll often find this mixed with oats and fried – if you want to give it a go, you don’t need many oats – about five parts laver to one of oats does the job.
I don’t think this method shows sea weed at its best, I tried blanched it – a big pan of boiling salt water, drop the seaweed in with frantic stirring, strain and drop into cold water. It goes green but it stays crisp.
Served up with a few olives, oil, pepper, salt and vinegar the blanched laver made a great salad, it could have done with a few shavings of mature hard cheese or some sesame seeds but I was out of stock.