Foraging seaweed from waters near his Marazion kitchen, Ross Sloan of Mount Haven Hotel preserves the umami flavour of sea plants to give his dishes a taste of the terroir throughout the year
‘I’ve been regularly foraging for the last couple of years,’ says Ross, ‘and alongside the likes of rock samphire and wild garlic, some of my favourite foraged plants are seaweeds such as sea lettuce, dulse (especially pepper dulse), seagrass and kelp.’
The latter plays a regular role at the restaurant. Ross says: ‘I dry it, then poach it in water to make a dashi stock which is the basis for a lot of my dishes. It’s got much more umami flavour than the average fish stock and is full of nutrients – I read somewhere that seaweed is one of the few foods you could live on exclusively as it has everything you need.’
He also uses the seaweed dashi with dehydrated seaweed powder set with a little gelatine (‘It doesn’t need much as seaweed has its own setting agent’) to make a fragrant jelly which he serves with pickled john dory and fermented white asparagus in season.
‘Seaweed also makes a great butter for basting fish, and we even roll butter in dehydrated seaweed powder and serve it with bread at the restaurant.’
With its position overlooking St Michael’s Mount (which, like Mount Haven Hotel and the Godolphin Arms, is owned and run by the St Aubyn Estate), Ross has a stunning natural seascape from which to forage.
‘The peak picking period for seaweed is in spring,’ he says, but by preserving it in a range of creative ways he can inject his cooking with the salty, vegetal tang of the ocean, even when the season has passed. ‘I even use dulse – known as the truffle of the sea for its savoury taste – to add depth to winter broths,’ smiles Ross. ‘It goes really well with pork and swede dashi and is a hidden treasure in our kitchen storecupboard.’
Preserving by pickling is another regular activity: ‘I pickle salty fingers (a seaside succulent) and meat radishes which are sliced and packed in brine for three months.’
This September the team will also be making damson and crab apple membrillo and sourcing bespoke ingredients from Gear Farm at nearby Helston. Ross says: ‘I want to do more than just buy veggies from normal distributors – that’s like going to the supermarket – so I go and pick stuff myself, and they’ll also grow things to the spec I want. I asked them to put aside radishes for us and to let them go to seed so we could use the peppery seed pods as a garnish.’
Fancy a forage for seaweed? Ross says:
- Pick in season – this is usually spring
- Don’t pull the plant from the root; use scissors to cut it so it will grow back
- Make sure the water the seaweed grows in is safe and free of toxins
- Start with something easy like sea lettuce which grows profusely on rocks
- Only take plants that are still connected – not seaweed floating untethered in the water
Flex those shucking muscles – oyster season is just around the corner. Luckily, the team at St Enodoc Hotel in Rock are on hand to dish out the low-down on the best ways to prep and eat the meaty molluscs
Scratching your head over what you can do about plastic-packed oceans? Not sure how to eat, shop and cook in a way that won't damage the environment? Want to support your local producers but stuck in a supermarket rut?