Our resident chef Mark Hix on the incredible weed samphire, and how the bounty of the ocean can yield salty treasures

 
Mark Hix
Get salty with a samphire-infused vodka martini

Most people who know samphire, love it for its culinary qualities. Not many people know, however, that back in the 16th century, it would have been used for making glass. It’s a member of the glasswort family, plants whose ashes could be used for making soda-based glass as opposed to the now more common potash.

These plants are all succulents, thriving on coast lines and salt marshes; regular seaside visitors would more than likely have trampled on them during their coastal walks.

We use a lot of wild seashore vegetables in the restaurants: sea beet, sea purslane, sea sand wort and, of course, the most commonly known: samphire. Some people call it sea (or poor man’s) asparagus, or, in the north of England, samphi, which I rather like and occasionally use.

In the kitchen it’s the perfect vegetable to briefly blanch and scatter over a piece of simply cooked fish or to serve with lamb, particularly salt marsh lamb if you can get your hands on it. The natural crunch and saltiness of the samphire makes it the perfect match to this type of meat – cooked pink, of course.

Its uses are never ending, such as adding it to an omelette with shrimp or crab, or try frying it in a light tempura batter, or throwing it in a risotto with shellfish.

Salty Black Cow Martini

Serves 4

While creating Black Cow vodka recipes, the barman at Fish House suggested a salty Black Cow with brined seasonal sea vegetables like sea purslane and samphire. It’s a great idea and works rather like a dirty martini, but with a taste of the sea.

This recipe will give you enough salted samphire to make your next round of martinis and probably another after that (which you’ll want).

For the pickled sea vegetables:

  • 250-300g samphire with the woody stalks removed
  • 100g Cornish sea salt
  • 150ml water

For the cocktail:

  • 250-300ml Black Cow vodka
  • 1tsp dry vermouth
  • 16 or so pieces of samphire
  • Ice cubes

Method

  • Bring the water to the boil then add the salt, stir until dissolved then leave to cool.
  • Put the samphire in a preserving jar and pour over the brine and press the samphire down so it’s covered. Close the lid and leave in a cool place for at least a week.
  • Put 10 or so pieces of samphire in a cocktail shaker and crush them up with the end of a rolling pin or similar, adding a tablespoon of the pickling liquid.
  • Add the vodka, vermouth and a dozen or so ice cubes, put on the lid and shake for about 10 seconds.
  • Divide the samphire into four martini glasses and pour over the martini, shaking as much liquid out as possible.


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