Also known as glasswort, marsh samphire is a vegetable that I associate with this time of year. I’m not entirely sure why, but the texture is succulent and crisp, and goes well with the lighter, brighter dishes I yearn for at this time of year. The vibrant green colour makes it look fresh and very appealing. Samphire is definitely one of the ingredients and flavours that marries perfectly with this vibrant season.
The thin, green succulent stems of marsh samphire remind me of fine, young asparagus stalks and can be eaten and cooked in the same way. However, the flavour is completely different; you won’t need to turn to the salt-cellar or any other salted ingredients when you come to cooking and serving samphire, it is naturally salty and is, therefore, best served in small portions. I like to griddle a handful of stems in a very hot pan, brushed with a little oil. They wilt in a couple of minutes and take on a slightly charred flavour. You can also toss stems in oil, spread them out on a baking tray and blast them in a hot oven for a few minutes to get a similar effect.
Young, fine, very fresh stems can be eaten raw. Just give them a thorough rinse in cold running water, chop them into small bits and toss them into your salad greens for a salty crunch. Larger stems are best briefly cooked in boiling water or lightly steamed, and can be a stir-fried.
Because of the “sea-salt” flavour, samphire is perfect served with fish, but it is also good with roast lamb. I like to add some sweetness in a dressing, or add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to temper the taste of the salt. Samphire is a vegetable that is traditionally pickled (although I haven’t tried this); I can imagine a sweet, spicy pickling liquid would work well and make a great accompaniment to go with smoked mackerel or ham. My current favourite combination of ingredients with griddled samphire is freshly cooked plain rice noodles, flakes of hot smoked salmon and a dressing of Thai sweet chilli sauce – so simple and yet utterly delicious!