Why do chefs love to cook with seaweed?
It’s no secret that we love seaweed, but did you know that chefs up and down the country (and around the world) love to cook with it too? Famed for its rich flavours and versatility, there are many species of seaweed that excite chefs. In fact, seaweed has been endorsed by famous chefs such as James Martin, Gregg Wallace, Nigella, Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver, to name a few.
Seaweed flakes can enhance any flavour
Cooking is all about the flavour - and seaweed has that in abundance. Seaweed flakes help to enhance the natural flavours which occur during cooking, adding a depth of flavour which is unmatched.
One chef who is more than familiar with Mara’s entire range is Six by Nico’s Andy Temple.The firm’s Chief Creative Officer grew up in a small town on Scotland’s West Coast, where he discovered seaweed at an early age.
He said: “Seaweed has always been part of my life. When I first discovered Mara Seaweed almost a decade ago, I knew it was a gift from the sea. I’ve been using it religiously on at least one of my dishes ever since.”
From Kombu to finish a duck jus, to Dulse on beurre blanc or a sprinkle of Shony® on butter to spread on freshly baked bread, Mara Seaweed is never far from Andy’s plate.
Using the natural flavour of seaweed intensifies all other flavours in the dish, so it’s no wonder chefs love adding seaweed to their dishes. Why not explore in your own kitchen? A sprinkle of Shony® to finish a dish or a heaped spoonful of Kombu to enhance soups and stews can revolutionise your weeknight meals.
Seaweed elevates every dish
The UK is home to over 600 species of seaweeds, but not all are as tasty and as others. So let Mara be the expert and help you discover the best ones to cooking with. At Mara Seaweed, we have three main varieties; Dulse is iron-rich and smoky, Shony® has a balanced sweetness, and Kombu kelp is smooth and flavourful. We also have Smoked Dulse, which is like the whisky of the sea as it brings a peaty flavour to dishes and is prized by chefs.
Chefs like Carla Lamott from Ninth Wave, Mull, incorporate seaweed seamlessly, whether they are creating something savoury, or sweet.
Carla said; “Seaweed has become one of our signature Scottish ingredients and we serve it in our bread every day, on our local lamb racks and I just made the best oatcakes I have ever tasted.”
Can seaweed help us unlock the fifth flavour?
If you’re a foodie, you’ll have heard of ‘umami’ - which is sometimes called the fifth flavour that we taste, along with sweet, salty, spicy and bitter.
Seaweed isn’t just another fancy ingredient - it really helps the human tongue to unlock other flavours, making food taste more intense and delicious.
Umami flavours are intense and more-ish, they hit the sweet spot, also described as savoury deliciousness (a favourite of ours). Chefs credit it for its ability to create deep and luxurious flavours in almost any type of food. The truth is, we’ve all tasted it, and chefs know exactly how to bring it out.
Jonny Wright, who’s Head Chef at the new Gleneagles Townhouse set to open any day now in the heart of Edinburgh said; “To work with an ingredient like Mara Seaweed, hand-harvested nearby from pure, clean Scottish waters, is a chef’s dream. It’s been a lot of fun incorporating the seaweeds into a number of our dishes on The Spence menu, including our Loch Etive cured sea trout dish. For me, it adds layers of flavour and umami which is hard to find from other ingredients.”
It comes into its own with Asian cooking
Seaweed has been used in Asian cooking for hundreds of years and pairs fantastically with East Asian flavour profiles. From its varied flavours to its many formats, whole leaf, flaked or powdered, seaweed can be used in many Asian cuisines to create spectacular and authentic dishes. Chefs like Dean Banks, who’s Chef Proprietor at Haar Restaurant in St Andrews and Head chef at The Pompadour, Edinburgh, are big seaweed fans. He said; “I love using Mara Seaweed, their kombu strips make fantastic dashi”
Less salt, more flavour!
Whilst delicious, salt is unhealthy in high quantities. However, people still feel that food without it just isn’t the same. And if there is one thing chefs shouldn’t compromise on, it’s flavour. Seaweed’s flavour and health benefits mean just that.
Seaweed is naturally high in potassium and magnesium, which are two healthy mineral salts that guarantee flavour, without excess sodium. This natural saltiness is retained by Mara’s harvesting and drying approach, selecting high quality seaweed from clean water and processing within 24 hours to lock in flavour.
CJ Jackson, an award-winning chef, food writer and seafood expert from the renowned Billingsgate Seafood School, uses seaweed whilst teaching and on headline programmes, including one of her latest appearances as resident fishmonger on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.
She said: "Mara Seaweed blends are a delight to work with. I use Shony® for a Roast Cod dish as it is subtle but adds umami flavour and reduces the need for added salt."
How to use seaweed in your cooking
You would be surprised by how easy it is to incorporate seaweed into your own home cooking. Bake in, shake on, stir in. Looking for inspiration? We have lots of recipes on our website just waiting to be explored.