The return of Masterchef to our screens at the same time that Lemanea is at its most abundant in our streams is too much of a coincidence for me. I have already written about my culinary experiments with the red alga Lemanea (which is eaten in parts of northeast India) and have been wondering for some time how best to use it in British cooking (see “Trout with sorrel, watercress and … algae”). This year, I followed my instincts, in the wake of my experiments with Welshman’s Caviar after the Green Man festival last summer (see “Gastronomy in the Welsh hills”) and found that it can really enhance the flavour of scrambled eggs.
This is how to do it: collect a few handfuls of young Lemanea from a stream. It is only common in streams that are relatively unpolluted, though it is tolerant of heavy metal pollution, so it pays to avoid areas where you know there is a history of mining. Wash the filaments in cold water to remove any particles, shake it dry and then spread it out on a plate and leave it at room temperature overnight to dry. Chop it roughly so that the fragments are about a centimetre in length. Finally, make your scrambled eggs in the usual way, but stir a generous handful of the dried Lemanea filaments into the mixture just as it starts to thicken. Cook whilst stirring for a couple of minutes, then serve on buttered toast. The algae gives the scrambled eggs a nice, fishy flavour without overwhelming the dish.
Scrambled eggs with Lemanea.
By coincidence, I also found myself eating algae later in the day. I watched a small bowl filled with a tangle of narrow bright green strips trundled past on the conveyor belt whilst I was having a quick pre-cinema meal in YO! Sushi in Newcastle. This was Kaiso salad, made from seaweed (Undaria, I think) marinated with sesame. It looked too good to resist. Algae on the menu twice in one day … if I’m not careful, you’ll be thinking I’m obsessed …
Kaiso salad at YO! Sushi