Seaweed is the new superfood

I know what you’re thinking. Seaweed? That slimy, dull green algae we’re so used to seeing washed up along the British coastline? Yes. Move over kale, seaweed is the new superfood.

Seaweed is in fact a highly nutritious and versatile ingredient. Used widely in Korean and Japanese cooking, it’s packed full of minerals like iodine, which is great for the thyroid function and helps to strengthen the immune system. It contains more vitamin C than an orange, plus it’s high in protein.

Seaweed can be used in a variety of dishes, including stock, soup, salad, and, of course, sushi. Its neutral, earthy taste pairs well with flavourful dressings and sauces, and it will leave you feeling full. You can find the dried stuff in some big supermarkets, as well as oriental supermarkets and online.

Try it for yourself

  
Try making this adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi’s crusted tofu with seaweed and lime.

The seaweed soaks up the chilli dressing, contrasting wonderfully with the punchy coriander seeds and lime in the tofu coating. The seaweed ribbons have a thicker texture than you’d expect, similar to lasagne sheets, though with a fresher taste and more bite.

Ingredients

  • 40g dried seaweed (we used kelp – you could also use wakame or a similar alternative)
  • 20g panko breadcrumbs
  • Grated zest of 1 small lime
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black (or white) sesame seeds
  • 15g coriander leaves
  • 150g tofu, drained and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 20g plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50ml sunflower oil, for frying
  • Salt

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sriracha chilli sauce
  • A couple of drops of rice wine
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 2-3 as a starter

Method

1. Place the seaweed in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring
to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients except the groundnut oil.
Gradually add the groundnut oil, whisking as you go.
3. Next, get your production line ready to coat your tofu. Put the coriander
seeds in a small bowl and crush them with the back of a metal spoon. Add the
breadcrumbs, lime zest and sesame seeds, a pinch of salt and stir in together.
Beat the egg into another small bowl. Pour the flour into a third bowl. Coat the
tofu in the flour, followed by the egg and lastly the breadcrumb mix.
4. Drain the seaweed, and cut into 2-3cm wide ribbons.
5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the sunflower oil. Cook
the tofu for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
6. Mix the seaweed, coriander leaves and dressing together in a bowl. Serve
on a plate with the crispy tofu. Squeeze some extra lime juice on top if you
fancy.

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Kale and mushroom risotto

Curly kale is the superfood of the moment. It’s everywhere; in all the new salads on the supermarket shelves, and in healthy juice recipes featured in magazines and online.

I’ve bought kale a few times in the past – but only ever to grill it with salt on top – because it tastes just like ‘crispy seaweed’ that you get in Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. It’s delicious (grill on a baking tray for 10 minutes – try it)!

But I wanted to do something different with the widely praised green vegetable this time; to make it the protagonist of a meal, and to cook it more traditionally.

Kale and mushroom risotto

So I conjured up this lovely risotto, inspired by one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes. Controversially, I used cider vinegar instead of white wine which would usually be used to cook risotto rice, and I was pleasantly surpised – the dryness of the vinegar worked well with the flavours of the earthy mushrooms and rich cheese.

This satisfying risotto dish incorporates the dark green leaves of curly kale, with the smooth texture and nutty taste of chestnut mushrooms. It’s a wonderfully green and nutritious meal that’s quick enough to make mid-week.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 5 squirts of low-fat cooking spray
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • A knob of olive spread
  • 150g curly kale
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 550ml vegetable stock
  • 1 mug arborio rice (roughly 200g)
  • 3 tsp cider vinegar (I used Aspall’s)
  • Approx. 50g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated (or another flavoursome hard cheese)
  • Plenty of ground rock salt and black pepper
  • A sprinkle of vegetarian-friendly parmesan

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves 2

Method

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil and the olive spread in a large frying pan or wok. Add the onion, garlic and dried thyme and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Meanwhile, pour the stock into a small saucepan and keep on a low heat.

3. When the onion has softened, add the rice, stirring in with the other ingredients and cook until the grains have started to become transparent. When this is the case, pour in the cider vinegar and stir in with the rice mixture for 10-20 seconds, until the liquid cooks off.

4. Reduce the heat and add a ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir every now and again, and when the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladleful. Continue this process on a low heat until all of the stock has been used, for 25 minutes or so.

5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until they start to let off some liquid. Take them off the heat (but keep the hob on) and put to one side.

6. Place the frying pan back on the hob and squirt in the cooking spray.

7. Rinse the kale in a colander and place it in the frying pan along with 1 tbsp water and some salt. Cook on a low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes, turning the leaves over every now and again so they’re well-covered by the water. When the leaves turn a vibrant green and have softened, they’re ready.

8. Tip three quarters of the kale into a measuring jug and use a hand blender to shred the leaves into fine pieces.

9. Going back to the rice, give it a taste – it should be fairly soft, but with a bit of bite. If it’s not quite ready, add a bit more water. When it’s cooked, there should still be a bit of moisture from the stock left in the pan. Add the grated cheddar and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.

10. Finally, stir the shredded kale in well and give it another taste. Add some further seasoning if needed.

11. Serve the risotto in large bowls, with the remaining whole kale leaves and mushrooms on top. And if, like me, you’re guilty of sprinkling cheese on top of all your food, a cheeky bit of parmesan wouldn’t go amiss.