Thursday 8 September 2011

Blite About Now

We took a stroll across the salt flats a couple of day ago to collect more samphire. It's starting to turn a little red on top and the stems are becoming woody, which is a sign that the best of it is over. It's certainly plentiful just now but becoming a bit of a hassle to prep. From the stonier areas of the upper shoreline we also picked Sea Blite Suaeda maritima, which I have recently discovered is also edible. It's an attractive plant that looks a bit like an odd little conifer with fat blue-green 'needles'.

I've never bothered to look up any recipes for samphire. I just blanch it in boiling water then add in lots of butter and pepper. Trust me, you won't need to add any salt. You can cook the sea blite in the same way, so you're as well to just put it in the pot along with the samphire. I did use some of the sea blite in the creamy sauce I made to go with a couple of nice chunks of cod. I fried the cod quickly in a very hot griddle pan along with some paprika (the sweet kind this time but it's also great with the hot 'Pimentón Picante' variety), then added in some finely-chopped sea blite. Finally, I dolloped in a load of double cream and some of the 'stock' from the samphire and sea blite. You can put the cod back in the sauce to warm for a couple of minutes but make sure your sauce doesn't end up boiling away to nothing: This is quick cooking.

Sea blite has a texture similar to samphire but it tastes slightly different. My wife thought it had a mild asparagus flavour. I hardly ever eat potatoes but I can imagine that sea blite and/or samphire would be excellent sprinkled over some hot, floury and well-buttered spuds.

Sea blite is another halophile (i.e. salt-loving) plant. We may usually think of extremophile organisms as being the likes of bacteria living close to hot, deep-sea volcanic vents or thriving buried beneath the Arctic ice, but these hardy little annuals are also true extremophiles. What a tasty wee marvel of evolution.

It's breezy outside but dry for the moment. Some respite, at least, from recent deluges. With any luck the clouds will blow away by tonight to allow us a clear view of Ursa Major. We were out last night trying to spot the supernova in M101. Using the binoculars we did find a little smudgy patch of light that looked different from the surrounding stars, but nothing conclusive. Not much to look at from our perspective but I think an exploding star 21 million light years away is certainly worth trying to spot.

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