Earlier this week my husband Dan and I enjoyed a pleasant stroll on our local beach for our hour’s walk, in compliance with the current Covid-19 Lockdown regulations.
Whilst walking towards the incoming tide, I noticed what looked like sea lettuce growing on the rocks. Dan looked on the internet via his mobile phone to check what we had found and that it was safe to eat, so then we picked just enough of the sea lettuce to take home and incorporate into an evening meal. It had attached itself to the rocks quite firmly so we picked it quite carefully applying light and deliberate pressure so as not to risk tearing the ruffled fronds.
Sea lettuce is a common seaweed found all over the world attached to rocks and other surfaces. It attaches using a small holdfast or sometimes lives in rock pools if it has become detached. The detached fronds will continue growing and are capable of forming large floating colonies, although sometimes sea lettuce will also be found washed up along the beach.
The fronds of sea lettuce are unique; they are ruffled, bright green and translucent as they are only 2 cell layers thick. They are not classed as endangered and are a sustainable food source.
Sea lettuce is an important source of nutrition for grazing marine creatures including crustaceans, molluscs such as sea snails and slipper limpets, and echinoderms such as sea urchins. Brant geese also feast on sea lettuce at low tide.
In recipes, sea lettuce may be eaten raw in salads and cooked in soups or stir fries. It can also be dried and sprinkled on food for a cheffy twist. Although sea lettuce has a thin appearance, it is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It contains a high amount of Vitamin C, protein and fibre and is a great source of protein.
Having harvested this ingredient and enjoyed our walk, we went home and thoroughly soaked the sea lettuce in fresh salted water to remove any impurities and rinsed it through a colander and fresh running water, before draining and shaking it well and placing it in a covered bowl we transferred to the refrigerator.
The following evening I incorporated the sea lettuce with a few leftovers and store cupboard ingredients into a delicious stir fry for supper. This stir fry is so tasty and healthful and you can chop and change ingredients with whatever you have in the store cupboard. If you don’t have sweet and sour sauce you could use black bean sauce, a tablespoon or two of soy sauce or even a tablespoon of curry paste. You can use cooked rice noodles instead of long grain rice, if you prefer. If you don’t like bell peppers (or don’t have any) you could use diced zucchini instead or include a finely chopped leek instead of the onion. Simply use whatever raw leftover vegetables and whatever seasonings you have.
You do not need to add prawns and/or egg if you are vegetarian or vegan, instead you could add a few tablespoons of protein-packed crunchy nut butter instead of a Chinese sauce or curry paste, or you could add a liberal handful of cashew nuts.
Whatever you do, have fun experimenting! This recipe is a cheap and nutritious “freestyle” meal you can make again and again.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 50g-100g Foraged sea lettuce, rinsed well and drained
- Half yellow or red bell pepper
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
- 25-50g red cabbage finely sliced
- 1 medium carrot sliced into batons
- Handful of cold cooked prawns (if liked)
- 1 egg (optional)
- 3 tbsp rapeseed, sesame or sunflower oil
- Leftover cooked long grain rice
- 3 tbsp sweet and sour sauce from a jar or sachet
- 1 tsp ginger puree (or 1” piece of chopped fresh ginger)
- 3 finely peeled and chopped garlic cloves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chilli flakes or freshly chopped chilli (optional)
- If including the egg, put 1 tbsp oil in a small non-stick skillet (frying pan) and put it over a high heat. Crack the egg into a cup and whisk well with a fork, turn the heat down to medium and pour the egg into the pan, swirl round and allow to cook through on one side until set. Flip egg over and cook through on the other side. Turn out of skillet on to a clean board and allow to cool.
- When cool, roll up the egg omelette and slice into strips. Reserve.
- Put 2 tbsp oil in a wok and place on a medium-to-high heat. Add the onion, cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, ginger and chilli and stir well to combine. Allow to cook through for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the onion does not char. Adjust cooking heat if necessary.
- Add the chopped garlic cloves, black pepper and salt to taste and stir well to combine.
- Add 3 generous tbsp. of sweet and sour sauce to the mixture and shake/stir well to combine. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes, then add the rice and the prawns if using. Add the egg strips. Stir or flip all ingredients in the pan until thoroughly combined and leave on the heat for another minute or two.
- Finally, add the sea lettuce and combine well to cook for a further minute.