Seaweed and eat it

I never tire of the view out to sea through the small, square kitchen window in the cottage. It’s ever-changing with the seasons, the weather, time and the tide. Yesterday I looked out to west coast mizzle (a fine Scottish partnering of mist and drizzle). Beyond the rain-soaked field the water was slate-grey and angry. In the bay three small boats rocked and bucked as the waves, chased onshore by the wind, slapped their sides relentlessly. The sky was low, and across the loch the land was just a suggestion of a form – lost in the mist, or, indeed, the mizzle.

Today, however, it sits solid and clear on the horizon. The purple of the heather on the ridge gives way to green as the trees follow the gullies and burns down to the shore. The sea is flat, the three boats sitting safely in its arms. The headland to the left – already bright with new growth pushing through the burnt-out scrub – reaches into the loch, its fingers testing the water. And the wind has stopped. It’s a welcome relief, this calm. I sit out on the bench with my morning coffee listening to the birds.

Lobster and three crabs

And he did! Four crabs and a lobster no less.

A sailing boat motors out of the marina and cuts across the water. The fish farm squats in the distance – a strange, dark, metal island. A local, who once worked there, described how thousands of beautiful beasts jostle for space. The sailing boat gives it a wide berth. I hear a grumble, roar and steady chunter as my neighbour heads off round the coast to check his pots. I’m hoping he’ll drop off a crab for me later.

I live by the sea, but I have to pinch myself to believe it. In the city the cry of a gull was enough to transport me to a salty beach with rock pools and sun-dappled paddling. Now it’s part of my everyday life and that’s been a wonderful thing. The sea speaks of something wild and free. I like to stand on its edge and take in the expanse until my eye settles on the horizon. I imagine the riot of life in front of me below the surface. And on the shoreline, that magical place where land and sea meet, you can dip your toe into this other-worldly-world, join the sea creatures and glimpse their lives.

Crisps made from kelp and a glass on blue bench

Delicious crisps made from dried kelp.

I’ve been taking my ‘Edible Seashore’ handbook with me on my beach foraging trips. It covers anything that can be gathered from the top of a seaside cliff to sea as far out as waist deep on a low spring tide – perfect for me as I’m yet to get the boat in the water. I’m an old hand at gathering mussels (they’re everywhere, you pick the big ones off a rock at low tide) and cockles (there’s a cockle bed on the beach, you rake the sand at low tide and they’ll pop up), but I’ve never found a razor clam, oyster or scallop. I’m hoping this book will help me. Alas, it won’t be until September, as the shellfish rule is only collect when there’s an ‘r’ in the month – something to do with breeding and water temperature. It’s a shame as my neighbour says there’s a load of oysters on the low-tide rocks near White Bay. But shrimps, lobsters and crabs are fair game all year round.

Kelp drying on a washing line

Kelp gathered at low tide hanging out to dry on the washing line.

As, of course, is seaweed. Yesterday I dragged some kelp in from the rocks at low tide. I rinsed it and hung it out to dry on the washing line where, in a matter of hours, it shrank and darkened until it resembled a row of bedraggled stockings. After an evening in front of the fire, the kelp was crispy and dry and ready to cut up and store. Kelp (‘Kombu’) is used a lot in Japanese cooking. It makes dashi, the stock for miso soup. You can also add a few bits of it to stews and soups for flavour, though some say it just makes everything taste faintly of iodine. I made a batch of kelp crisps by chopping dried kelp into squares and deep frying them for about five seconds. They were delicious – salty, with the bubbled texture of poppadom. We offered some to a passing man out walking his dog. ‘That’s a strange thing to be making on a Sunday’, he remarked and went on his way.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Seaweed and eat it

  1. Saffron

    How are your veggies doing Eve?

    • All the root veg looking good but everything else got battered by the wind. They’re hanging in there though. You got to be hardy to survive in these parts. I’ve got some bell cloches for protection. Oh and tell Sally her tomatoes are doing well up in the attic.

  2. Jenny Szewiel

    In the middle of a busy day at the office your words have transported me – I can almost hear the gulls and taste the salt on my lips as I read your words. Eve, you’re an inspiration as always. Off to Hay this weekend and will be thinking of you and our chat last year as we looked up to the starry skies and talked about poetry and dreams. Loads of love xxx

  3. Laura

    I’m starting to get excited every time I see that you’ve posted again. I was almost tiptoe-ing along the rocks looking for mussels with the clashing tide nearby until a goose started honking outside the office. In much agreement with Jenny – thanks for those precious few minutes of calm. I await the next ones! xx

  4. Em

    Oh wow – I want that lobster…. NOW! Another beautiful blog lady that makes me yearn for home in a way that nothing else can. Would love to see pictures of a big old scottish sea storm.
    Think of you often.
    Em
    x

  5. Mick Greaney

    Great Post Eve.
    On the razor clam note, I saw Rick Stein once walk along a beach (may have been Scotland?) with an expert in catching such stuff. Where he saw little divots in the wet sand he poured a little salt. The razor clams just miraculously appeared to the surface and he gently pulled them out the rest of the way, being careful not to break them.

  6. Paul and Jane

    Hi Eve,
    With Lizzy’s help we’ve found you! Love the Blog and what you’re doing. Just reading through all your writings vividly brings back great memories of sailing the Loch’s and Islands of Scotland’s fabulous West Coast, including sailing within spitting distance of your cottage. Which incidentally we shall be again in September! Will you be in? Could we tempt you aboard for a meal from a supermarket, or even a ready meal! or do you think by then it’ll only be a foraged meal that’ll tempt you out of the cottage? Lots of love Paul and Jane.

    • Tempt me? You won’t be able to keep me off! Or indeed kick me off – you might find you have a little deckhand! Be really great to see you. It’s the Scottish series this weekend so boats arriving from all over. X

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