Western Australian chef Scott Bridger explains how to look past the garden for delicious and nutritious plant food. Of the marine variety.
“My food philosophy is fresh and sometimes a bit whacky, with no compromise on flavour and always using amazing ingredients,” says chef Scott Bridger. “It’s amazing to cook seafood and succulents that are literally swimming or growing right off the coast. Seasonality is the main aspect of my cooking and nature is very much my inspiration.
I first discovered the art of urban foraging when looking for edible weeds in Fremantle on a permaculture course. There’s a lot of things under our noses that most people walk past, and they’re tasty, healthy and free. Perth’s Swan River has so many hidden gems. I believe we are just scratching the surface when it comes to Australian native succulents. Our current understanding is that Aboriginals have been eating them from the very beginning. It would be amazing for us to learn more from their elders before their knowledge is lost for good.
When I’m on the river I don’t look at the water, I look at the footpath to see what’s growing there. The tidal shores are especially lush. It is here that sea succulents grow best, especially in the middle of summer. It is just abundant with sea spray, sea lettuce,samphire (also known as sea asparagus, swamp grass and sea beans) andsaltbush. Most are nutrient dense, provide energy and are high in protein. Some species, like the Kakadu plum, are the highest form of vitamin c you can find anywhere in the world.
It is important when foraging to only take what you need and respect local permits and exclusion zones if fenced off. Most of the time you are foragin gin semi rural or coastal areas so be careful not to trample young plants or erosion zones.
What I hunt and gather always inspiremy menus. I use them as complementary flavours and garnishes - elements in dishes to add sourness, saltiness bitterness, or they act as a balancing agent.”
SCOTT’S 3 TIPS FOR SIMPLY PREPARING SEA PLANTS
Salt bush: Make a salt bush rub with dried saltbush leaves, sea salt and some lemon myrtle and use on chicken and fish.
Samphire: Blanch for 20 seconds and then stir fry with a little ginger, chilli and garlic and finish with some lemon juice and a touch of butter.
Sea lettuce: Reduce some white wine down and finish with a little butter, then add finger limes and some shredded sea lettuce. It goes beautifully with grilled fish.
Here at WelleCo we love to serve samphire alongside perfectly prepared white fish. Here is a favourite go-to weeknight recipe.
via The Guardian
100-200g marsh samphire a head
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 small knob butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
Start by carefully picking over your samphire, removing all the root and any tough stems. Now wash and rinse it thoroughly, to get rid of any grit and sand, and break up larger, multi-branched pieces into their smaller pieces. If you bought (or picked) whole, uprooted plants, you can expect to lose between a quarter and a third of it in the cleaning and trimming.
Bring to the boil a large pan of fresh, salted water, drop in the samphire and cook for three to four minutes. Drain, season with pepper, toss with the butter and a little olive oil, and serve at once, with lemon wedges, alongside a good piece of grilled fish.