Monday, 25 June 2007

TASTE part 4: River Cottage Seaweed

Just home from Taste London – once again there’s plenty of stuff to tell, and I’m going to kick off with a River Cottage themed post. No sausages this time, but instead we had really interesting demos from their wild food man John Wright. He had brought along a good selection of mushrooms and seaweed and did a very interesting session explaining them all. Although I got to listen to what was happening, I didn’t see too much because I was behind the stage getting ready for the next demo.
On Sunday, however, Chris did a disappearing act and I hastily graduated to sous chef, joining John on stage to make carrageen pudding. It’s something I’ve always wondered about trying, but I never imagined that my first attempt would be on stage watched by paying festival-goers!! I put on my best ‘I do this all the time’ face and got stuck in while John talked about the other plants he’d brought along. Thankfully it all came together exactly as John had described to me in the minutes before we started the demo – BIG relief! I didn’t put enough sugar in the mixture, but apart from that it was fine, and my main worry over non-setting was proved unfounded.
Since it was his last demo John let me take home some of the unused carrageen and I’ve just emerged from the kitchen where carrageen pud mark II is now setting ready for this evening’s dessert. I combined John’s technique with lemon and basil in the style of the yummy panna cotta we had in Edinburgh. I think it probably would have worked with plenty less seaweed, to give them a gentle custardy wobble rather than a firm jellyish one, and I really must buy a finer sieve for this sort of thing, but here’s what I did…

Lemon and Basil Carrageen Pots

15g dried carrageen
300ml water
250ml milk
50g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Vanilla pod, split
Small handful of basil stalks
250ml double cream

Heat the water and seaweed in a covered bowl above a simmering pan for half an hour.
Meanwhile, gently heat the milk with the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and basil until just reaching boiling point.
Using a spatula, push the seaweed liquid through a fine sieve into a chilled bowl (it should be fairly think and gelatinous).
Quickly mix the cream with the milk mixture, strain, and whisk into the seaweed goo.
Pour into 6 ramekins and chill until firm.

I don’t have a photo of John at work unfortunately, but here’s Hugh F-W himself doing a scallop demo with me in the background looking very serious. For his second demo he did a reading from his book ‘Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All’ followed by a question and answer session.

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