My beach-side harvest – Sea Kale (cooking tips and gluten-free/dairy-free/vegan serving suggestions)

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Sea kale growing on chalky cliff face. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A bit of a departure from my usual blog posts this week. I’ve had some time away from my home in Scotland, and spent a few days in Sussex, where I grew up, visiting friends and family, and enjoying some fine late spring weather.

On a walk along the South Downs, I climbed down to a secluded cove, only accessible when the tide is low, to discover sea kale growing on the sand and shingle beach and out of the chalky cliffs. The afternoon was still and warm, and the frilly edged, grey/blue-green leaves of the kale appeared silvery in the bright sunlight; the sweet smell of honey hung in the air from its many flowers which grow in clusters above the leaves.

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Secluded Sussex beach cove. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve never discovered sea kale growing wild before, and have never cooked nor eaten it. The opportunity and temptation was too great and I picked 2 or 3 of the smaller leaves from a few established plants. I knew that sea kale kept well – sailors used to take it on voyages as a source of vitamin C – so I put the leaves in a jug of water, in the fridge for a couple of days, before taking them back to Scotland to experiment in the kitchen.

As with most leafy vegetables, I guessed that the smaller leaves would be the most edible. Apparently, sea kale (Crombe maritima) is not actually kale, it’s a type of chard and belongs to the cabbage family. All parts are edible, raw and cooked. but in the interests of conservation, I picked just a few leaves.

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Small sea kale leaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And so, to the kitchen. I treated the sea kale as if it were a leafy cabbage or curly kale. I gave it a good soak to remove any sand, etc, and then sliced out the stems. I shredded some of the leaves, and decided to roast the rest whole as I do with kale.

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Preparing sea kale. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Stems with balsamic vinegar – trim the ends and then slice the stems down the centre, lengthways. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat a frying pan until hot, drizzled with a little olive oil and stir fry the stems for 2-3 minutes until softened and browned a little. Turn off the heat, season with balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper. Cover with a lid and stand for 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped chive stems and flowers.

Leaves with garlic, chilli and soy – shred the leaves as you would Savoy cabbage and cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain well. Stir fry chopped leek and garlic in a little oil until softened and then add the boiled sea kale and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until tender. Season with dark soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.

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Cooked sea kale stems and leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To bake sea kale, choose the thinnest leaves, remove the stems if coarse, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a bowl and toss in a little olive oil, and massage it through the leaves to coat them lightly. Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and season well with smoked salt, pepper and caster sugar. Bake at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6) for 10 minutes, turn the leaves and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until dark and crispy. Season with chilli flakes and serve with extra sugar and smoked salt for dipping.

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Roast sea kale leaves with smoked salt, chilli and sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The verdict: if you like strong-tasting cabbage and seaweed ( which I do), then you’ll like sea kale. It’s not a flavour for the faint-hearted that’s for sure. It can be also be seasoned with other strong flavoured ingredients. I was surprised that it is not salty at all. Some of the slightly larger leaves had a slight medicinal bitterness to them, which makes me think that the much larger leaves would be inedible.

If you’re lucky enough to find some, it’s definitely worth trying. I feel fortunate to have stumbled across such a fabulous freebie courtesy of Mother Nature 🙂

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Also growing out of the chalky cliffs, a beautiful sea poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

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Soba noodles with fresh asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Soba noodles with asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

It is the height of the home-grown British asparagus season right now, and I’m eating as much as I can while these fresh, green, juicy stems are available to buy. I rarely do anything fancy with asparagus,  just enjoy it on its own, steamed, griddled, or baked in the oven, and seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper. Delicious.

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In season. British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very simple, yet very tasty, combination that makes a lovely light lunch or quick supper dish. If you want to make it in advance, it’s just as good eaten cold as a salad, or boxed up for a picnic or packed lunch.

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Three favourite seasonings for soba noodles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To serve 2: prepare 200g fresh asparagus spears by trimming away about 3cm of the stem – this is usually a bit woody and tough to eat. Then cut the rest of the stems into short lengths. Brush a non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil and heat until hot. Stir fry the asparagus for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Turn off the heat and add a good glug of gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Immediately cover with a lid and leave to stand. Leave to one side while you cook the noodles, or leave to cool completely for serving as a salad.

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Trimming fresh asparagus, and stir-frying. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to the boil and add 100g soba (buckwheat) noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes until tender, then drain well and place in a heatproof bowl, or rinse in cold running water, and leave to drain and cool completely.

When ready to serve, toss the asparagus and pan juices into the noodles along with 4 tbsp. freshly chopped chives,  2 teasp sesame oil and 1 tbsp. mirin. Pile into serving bowls and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy 🙂

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Tulip-tastic May

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May-time tulips. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been working away from home since my last post. When I arrived back at the weekend (a gloriously sunny one), I was delighted to see the garden so full of colour, and the tulips looking particularly magnificent. The extended winter/late spring has done wonders for the flowering bulbs this year. All of them have emerged strong and bold, and are lasting longer than usual.

Tulips have been a favourite flower of mine for many years. I love their simplicity. Whilst I have few words to share with you this week, I have some colourful images of these lovely, elegant blooms. I’ll be back in the kitchen again this weekend, getting ready for my next post in a few days time. Until then, have a good week.

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The colours of spring. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tall, red tulips in planters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Six of the best. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tulips overhead. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May bluebells and blossoms

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My Perthshire garden in May. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s May! My favourite month of the year. I’m so excited, I hardly know where to start. The weather has been fine and dry for several days and there is so much going on in the garden, I am utterly spoilt for choice. So here goes….

There are bluebells everywhere, ranging in height and depth of colour, and not just blue ones, white and lilac-pink stems as well. When the sun is up, the fragrance is quite intoxicating.

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Bluebells, lilac and white varieties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tall, white variety of bluebell. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The golden glow of daffodils has been replaced by the vibrant yellow of Welsh poppies which are blooming all over the garden now and will continue to do so throughout the coming months. The petals are so delicate yet the poppies withstand all sorts of random weather that a Scottish spring and summer has to offer.

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Vibrant and bold Welsh poppies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have high hopes for an abundant fruit crop this year. All the trees, especially the Morello cherry, have been laden with blossom. To me, the prettiest of all fruit blossom is the apple blossom, I love the deep pink buds which burst open into hint-of-pink flower petals. Pear blossom comes a close second with its intricate and prominent stamens.

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Morello cherry tree in full blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apple blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Concorde pear blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The weather here in Perthshire is set fair for another few days, with no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future. Whilst I enjoy the sunshine and blue sky, this is one of the worst times of the year for there to be little water for the plants. It looks like I will be busy with the watering can over the next few days. Until next month, I’m heading outside 🙂

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Bluebells under a May Perthshire blue sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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May bluebell, up close and personal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins