Currabinny Cooks: Three ways to serve up samphire

A frittata, a pasta and a lovely little side dish 
Currabinny Cooks: Three ways to serve up samphire

Samphire is full of nutrients. Picture: Bríd O'Donovan

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 Shakespeare in King Lear:

“Half-way down hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!”

The taste is of course salty, but more than that it has wonderful and intensely aromatic notes reminiscent of parsley or carrot tops. The texture is crunchy, juicy and joyously satisfying like the culinary equivalent of popping bubble wrap or crushing the thin layer of ice over a puddle on a cold morning.

The particular type that grows in rocky shores, like in my own Currabinny patch, is known as ‘rock samphire’, not to be confused with its better known, but unrelated namesake, marsh samphire. These are two similar-looking, yet unrelated succulent wildflowers. In contrast to rock samphire, marsh samphire grows abundantly in easily accessible areas like marshes, estuaries and beaches all around Ireland. For this reason, marsh samphire is the one you will come across most often in restaurants and at farmers markets. Marsh samphire is less aromatic than rock samphire, with a bright saltiness that is just as addictively delicious, if a little less interesting.

Also known as green salt, sea asparagus, Saint Peter’s herb (the patron saint of fishermen) and mermaid’s kiss, marsh samphire is full of nutrients being rich in vitamins and minerals. This is the samphire I have used in these recipes because it is still beautifully tasty and you don’t have to climb any dangerous sea cliffs to find it. These days you might even find it sold in a good supermarket, fishmonger or greengrocers. If you are out foraging for it, marsh samphire is succulent with green, heavily jointed stems and fleshy leaves and looks a little like a miniature asparagus plant. Pick the youngest, brightest green plants being careful not to pull up the roots. The easiest way to do this is to use scissors to just cut off the bright green ends of the plant.

Herby samphire frittata

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

The samphire adds a wonderfully salty umami to this creamy frittata, filled with vegetables, fresh herbs and easy to slice for a picnic

Herby samphire frittata

Servings

3

Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

8 mins

Total Time

18 mins

Course

Main

Ingredients

  • 100g samphire, washed

  • 2 tbsp chives, finely chopped

  • handful of basil, torn or roughly chopped

  • 6 eggs

  • 50ml milk

  • 50g butter

  • 125g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

  • zest of ½ lemon

  • sea salt

  • black pepper

  • rapeseed oil

Method

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

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

Samphire with lemon and garlic

Servings

2

Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

15 mins

Course

Side

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of samphire, washed

  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 garlic clove, sliced very thinly

Method

  1. 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.

  2. 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

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

The fresh, briny smell of mussels compliments the salty samphire in this simple yet richly flavoured pasta dish with a hint of chilli

Tagliatelle with mussels and samphire

Servings

2

Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

20 mins

Course

Main

Ingredients

  • 600g mussels, scrubbed

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 glass of white wine

  • 2 small shallots, finely sliced

  • 1 red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped

  • 200g Tagliatelle

  • 250g cream

  • handful of samphire, washed

  • small handful of tarragon, roughly chopped

  • sea salt

  • black pepper

Method

  1. While you wash and scrub the mussels, check them all well, discarding any already open ones.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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