We take pride in the fact that almost all the foraged ingredients in our food are foraged within 2 miles of our pub, The Verulam arms in St Albans. It’s great to be able to stroll down by the river, plucking watercress and watermint as we go, harvesting hogweed seeds from the hedgerow and elderflower from the trees, and still be only a stone’s throw from the kitchen.
But there are some things that we have to travel for, and one of them is samphire. Samphire (the strands of green visible in the photo above) grows in salt marshes and coastal areas – none of which are in St Albans, unfortunately. The taste is worth the journey though. Samphire’s tender green stems have the texture of al dente spaghetti and a wild flavoursome saltiness. Here’s a video of us cooking the coast, including samphire (samphire is the stuff that looks like a tiny forest of thin green twigs)
Samphire season is so short that it’s already well over. Once the samphire gets longer than 4 or so inches, it starts to harden at the core, becoming unpleasantly woody. And nobody wants that. Luckily we are resourceful and obsessed with old school preservation techniques, so we filled our boots with enough samphire for many months earlier this year, and pickled it. Its saltiness and firm texture make it stand up very well to this treatment, allowing this highly seasonal delicacy to be enjoyed all year round.
The dish we’re using samphire on this summer is very much in the spirit of the dish we cooked in the above video. All our favourite dishes involve bold flavours, cooked simply, so it felt great to throw everything in a single pan over a fire. With this dish, the subtle flavours of hake are underscored by the warm smoked spiciness of chorizo, tossed in a pan with crushed new potatoes. Come and try it before it’s gone…