Sea spaghetti has been described as mild crunchy and moorish. The young shoots are very good to eat and taste rather like salty asparagus. It’s one of the latest sea vegetables to appear on supermarket shelves and fishmonger’s counters. You see it coiled, rather beautifully, like long thin shoe laces waiting to be threaded. For those of you who live close to me in Ilkley I bought mine at Ramus Seafood Emporium.
Sea vegetables have become interesting to chefs recently appearing on menus at some of the best restaurants. Samuel and Samantha Clark of Moro, add seaweeds to salads and rice. “We try to be very seasonal, so it’s a great way, in these slightly barren months of winter, to add a little colour and texture,” says Samuel. They recommend crumbling dried, toasted sea spaghetti over paella, and is a fan of fresh or rehydrated sea lettuce in seafood salads: “It gives a lovely sort of iodine-y, sea taste which is really pretty unique.”
This long, stringy sea vegetable is also known as thongweed or buttonweed and grows up to three meters. It forms dense mats near the shore. It is found around the British Isles but also the east Atlantic countries from Portugal to Norway.
Nutritionally it is interesting. A rich source of minerals including iodine, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium and phosphorous. It is of course high in sodium too – hence it’s salty taste. It also contains vitamin C, the B group vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and phenolics which all have healthful bioactive roles in the body. So it is a nutrient rich food.
Of interest to anyone with a sensitive gut is its carbohydrate content. It contains a long chain polysacharide called laminaran, which is a β-glucan. Remember these?
β-glucan are present in oats and have a beneficial role in helping to lower blood cholesterol, they also good for gut bacteria. β-glucans escape digestion in the small intestine but because of the long chain length they will be fermented slowly by gut bacteria in the large intestine. Also the amounts eaten are not usually great.
So using a little in cooking should not cause any gut problems. I have used the sea spaghetti with a lovely recipe adapted from Russel Norman’s book ‘Polpo’. If you can get really fresh scallops give it a go either with or without the sea spaghetti.
The combination of mint and lemon is lovely with scallops and very quick to make. If you are not on a beach holiday now it will certainly remind you of one.
Scallops with lemon, mint and sea spaghetti
Just a note – the sea spaghetti can be quite salty so no need to add salt to the scallops. It can be added later if anyone wants it.
Serves 4 for as a starter
- 4 scallops, cleaned and free from grit and sand
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, cut into ribbons
- 25 g (a small handful) sea spaghetti, washed in plenty of cold water to remove some of the saltiness
Trickle the olive oil into a large frying pan and heat gently. Place the garlic in the oil and fry gently until it just begins to brown. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard.
Dribble half of the lemon juice in the pan and add the shreds of mint. Increase the heat under the pan and add the scallops. Cook for 4 – 5 minutes.
While the scallops are cooking, plunge the sea spaghetti in a small pan of boiling water for 2 minutes to heat through.
Place the scallops on a scallop shell if you have one (or a saucer would do), pour over some of the cooking juices and scatter over a few threads of sea spaghetti.
Add more lemon juice and a grind of pepper to taste.
For more information on managing your sensitive gut see the IBS Network