One of our neighbours in Currabinny used to harvest samphire from the little cliffs which jut down from the forest before they crumble into the sea.
I didn’t think much of it when I was little but I have since grown to absolutely adore this salty little weed. It grows in a particular patch on a sharp, splinter of rock jutting out from below the tree line and out onto the shore. It can only safely be accessed at low tide before the swell of the ocean all but submerges any route to get at it. Indeed, samphire gathering is often an unsafe business, those doing so sometimes taking appalling risks to collect it.
This danger was written of by William Shakespearein King Lear:
Herby samphire frittata
The samphire adds a wonderfully salty umami to this creamy frittata, filled with vegetables, fresh herbs and easy to slice for a picnic
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time8 mins
Total Time18 mins
100g samphire, washed
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
handful of basil, torn or roughly chopped
125g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
zest of ½ lemon
Break the eggs into a large bowl with a small pinch of salt and a generous crack of black pepper. Whisk the eggs and milk before adding the herbs, tomatoes and samphire. Place a large cast iron skillet or good oven proof frying pan over a medium heat. Melt the butter and pour in the mixture.
Cook for a couple of minutes, lowering the heat after the bottom has started to set. Check with a spatula that it has set and started to brown a little.
Take off the stove top and place under a hot grill, finishing off the top so it has just started to brown but not get too over done or dry. Take out from under the grill and leave to cool a little before cutting into wedges and serving.
Samphire with lemon and garlic
Alhough samphire can be eaten raw, this is the best and purest way of cooking samphire - salty and garlicky with a hint of refreshing lemon
Preparation Time5 mins
Cooking Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
2 bunches of samphire, washed
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, sliced very thinly
Bring a big pot of water to the boil and throw the samphire in. Blanch for around 6-8 minutes and then drain and immediately refresh in cold water. Separate any of the woody stalks and discard.
Meanwhile shallow fry the thin slices of garlic until just starting to crisp up and caramelise. Be very careful not to let them burn as they will become bitter. Whisk together the olive oil and juice of one lemon in a medium sized bowl. Throw the samphire into the bowl and mix the oil and lemon juice emulsion into the samphire so that it is coated all over. Place in an appropriate serving dish with the crispy garlic scattered over.
Tagliatelle with mussels and samphire
The fresh, briny smell of mussels compliments the salty samphire in this simple yet richly flavoured pasta dish with a hint of chilli
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
600g mussels, scrubbed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 glass of white wine
2 small shallots, finely sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
handful of samphire, washed
small handful of tarragon, roughly chopped
While you wash and scrub the mussels, check them all well, discarding any already open ones.
Place the garlic with a little butter and oil in a deep pan or casserole dish over medium high heat. Move the garlic around the pan for a minute or two in the hot butter and oil and then pour in the glass of wine. Turn the heat up, bring the wine to the boil, add the mussels and put the lid on. Let the mussels steam for around 4-5 minutes. All the shells should have opened.
Turn the heat off and then remove all of the mussels from their shells. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve, discarding all the shells and any solids.
Place the diced chilli in a clean pan with a little bit of oil. Cook for a minute before pouring the cooking liquor from the mussels back in with a good crack of freshly cracked black pepper. Lower the heat and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile cook the Tagliatelle in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
Pour the cream into the pan with the chilli and cooking liquor and add back the mussels. Scatter in the chopped tarragon and samphire. Warm everything over the low heat for just a minute or two and then take off the heat and toss everything together along with the pasta. Serve between two bowls.