Thursday, 24 September 2015

Seaweed




I have to admit I'm a little crazy about seaweed. Those crispy thins that you see sold as snacks, I could go through them like it's nobody's business. If we are talking sushi, I will take maki rolls over nigiri or sashimi any day, but if I'm in a Japanese restaurant you know I'm ordering some wakame seaweed salad. I just love the stuff, yet I've never really thought about cooking with it until this year.

I kept seeing Atlantic Kitchen range of dry seaweeds around, and I was tempted to pick some up for ages but it wasn't until I was participating in the Gorgeous for Good 30 day program that I finally took the plunge and started using seaweed in my own kitchen. The reason why I chose Atlantic Kitchen, is because their dry seaweeds are certified organic with the Soil Association, yet the these are not farmed, but harvested in the wild (if you are curious here is more info about their process).
Broadly speaking edible seaweeds could be separated into three categories: green, brown, red. Each one comes with its own flavour, texture and nutritional content. With Atlantic kitchen they give you a heads up about the intensity of a particular variety by the "out of five stars" rating system on the front of the packet.

In my kitchen.



Sea spaghetti is a brown seaweed with a mild taste (1 out of 5 stars for intensity), you prepare it pretty much like pasta, by adding to a pan of boiling water and simmering for around 20 minutes. You could serve it as a side dish with some butter or olive oil, or mix it up with some noodles. Personally I like to have some sea spaghetti in the fridge (it can keep for up to a week once you have prepared it), and mix it into salads with shredded carrot, cucumber, tomato k, a little brown rice and some beans. The trick is to have a good dressing, I find that olive oil, lemon and a touch of tamari works brilliantly. Nutritionally speaking this seaweed is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, Vitamin B2. It is also a source of iron but not as good as some other varieties.




Dulse is a red seaweed with lots of flavour (4 out of 5 stars for intensity), it's super easy to prepare, you just place it in a bowl with hot water for 10 minutes and drain. You can also just rinse it and add straight into dishes for its smoky flavour. I absolutely love cooking with dulse, it makes for a seriously satisfying stew. But of course there is nothing stopping you from using it in salads, or other dishes like soups, and pasta sauces. In comparison to sea spaghetti, dulse has lower salt content, is much higher in protein, an amazing source of iron, has higher vitamin C content, but it is not as good a source of calcium. Dulse is also a great source of vitamin B12 which is key to the normal function of the brain and nervous system.

All seaweeds are naturally rich in iodine, which is needed in our bodies to make thyroid hormones, but for anyone who is sensitive to the effects of iodine it is recommended to seek medical advice before consuming them.

I have been intrigued by the idea of seaweeds being an alternative source of Omega 3, and they do contain small amounts of DHA, the only other sources are fish and shellfish (ALA is found in plants, and our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA , but the conversion that happens into DHA is severely limited so they can't be considered as a reliable source of DHA). So because the amounts of DHA in seaweed are so small, you can't get all that you need just by including seaweed in your diet, however concentrated supplements made out of seaweed are an alternative source of DHA to those on vegan and vegetarian diets (apparently algal-oil capsules and DHA in cooked salmon are nutritionally the same). If you are curious about everything omega 3 I quiet like this article.

Any other seaweed fans? Are you tempted to give them a go? Let me know in the comments.

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