Laverbread is a culinary Marmite: love it or loath it. First things first: it’s not a bread at all. It’s seaweed that’s washed, boiled for hours until it’s a greenish-black gelatinous mass then minced and served on its own or mixed with oatmeal and made into patties and cooked in bacon fat.
Jonathan Williams is a fan. His four-year old daughter is not. Yet.
If you’ve never heard of laverbread, you’re not alone. Like many dishes made from seaweed in Britain it was better known a hundred or more years ago. Small china pots of seaweed were sold in Bath in the 18th century for its health benefits while seaweed sauce was served as a popular accompaniment to roast lamb.
In Pembrokeshire, where Jonathan is from, laverbread was a dietary mainstay for hard working labourers and miners – a foraged food before foraging became posh.
Today, seaweed is on the culinary map again thanks to seaweed-loving folk like Jonathan who ditched his day job in 2010 to launch a street-food business called Cafe Môr (Môr means sea in Welsh) focusing on local seafood and seaweed.
A few years later, he began harvesting seaweed in earnest, drying it and selling it through his business The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company as Welshman’s Caviar – the name actor Richard Burton gave to laver.
Like Jonathan, Caro Warwick-Evans, co-owner of The Cornish Seaweed company, is another keen supporter of British seaweed. She worked in developing countries to install renewable energy systems but came to Cornwall to recuperate after a serious automobile crash. When she was well enough to work again, renewable energy policies had changed and work had dried up.
She was living in the back of a van and working as a cleaner when she heard a radio programme on the seaweed industry in Ireland. She wondered why no one was harvesting seaweed in England. “Everyone sees seaweed but no one does anything with it,” she says. She contacted the Irish company who invited her to come learn more. She did and was so excited that she came back to Cornwall and started her own company with partner Tim Van Berkel.
The learning curve was steep as there weren’t regulations in place for harvesting or selling seaweed. Caro and Tim worked with a number of bodies including Natural England and the Food Standards Agency and were instrumental in drawing up a code of conduct for sustainable seaweed harvesting. They now have a license from The Crown Estate to harvest seaweed on a stretch of Cornish coast.
Protecting coastal seaweed is critical for producers. Both the Beach Food company and Cornish Seaweed hand cut their seaweed using scissors and knives. This allows the seaweed to grow back and regenerate. Jonathan’s company is even helping to fund research at Swansea University looking at current seaweed stocks. One day, seaweed may be grown commercially as it is in Japan but for now it is a labour intensive operation governed by the season and the tides.
There are around 700 species of seaweed found in UK waters. Jonathan says Wales is the ideal environment for a number of different seaweeds. Caro harvests in a marine conservation zone with water that comes in straight off the Atlantic, creating optimal growing conditions.
Food and drink news
Food and drink news
1/27 Food School
Kids celebrate Food School graduation with James Martin – a campaign launched by Asda to educate young people on where food comes from. New research has revealed that children across the UK just aren’t stepping up to the plate when it comes to simple facts about the food they eat – with almost half of children under eight not knowing that eggs come from chickens
2/27 ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant
To encourage more people to cook and eat together, IKEA has launched The Dining Club in Shoreditch – a fully immersive ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant – which will open its doors from 10 - 25 September 2016. Members of the public can book to host a brunch, lunch or dinner party for up to 20 friends and family. Supported by their very own sous chef and maître de, the host and their guests will orchestrate an intimate dining experience where cooking together is celebrated and eating together is inspirational
Mikael Buck / IKEA
3/27 Ping Pong menu with a twist
Gatwick Airport has teamed up with London dim sum restaurant Ping Pong to create a limited edition menu with a distinctly British twist; including a Full English Bao and Beef Wellington Puff, to celebrate the launch of the airport’s new route to Hong Kong
4/27 Food photography masterclass
To celebrate the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards, photographers share tips on how to create an award winning food photography using the full-frame, palm-sized interchangeable lens Sony α7R II camera. A series of stunning food photography images capture the exquisite, mouth-watering detail of the dinner table close up. Tapping into the growing trend of food photography, renowned food photographer Hugh Johnson has shared his step-by-step guide to capturing incredible gastronomic imagery. Winning and shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at Somerset House from 22 April – 8 May
5/27 Zizzi unveil the Ma’amgharita
Unique pizza art has been created by Zizzi in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The pizza features the queen in an iconic pose illustrated with fresh and tasty Italian ingredients on a backdrop of the Union Jack
6/27 Blue potatoes make a comeback
Blue potatoes, once a staple part of British potato crops, are back on the menu thanks to a Cambridge scientist turned-organic farmer and Farmdrop, an online marketplace that lets people buy direct from local farms. Cambridge PhD graduate-turned farmer, Adrian Izzard has used traditional growing techniques at Wild Country Organics to produce the colourful spuds, packed with healthy cell-protecting anthocyanin, which had previously disappeared from UK plates when post-war farmers were pushed towards higher-yielding varieties
7/27 France plans to usurp Scotland as the home of the world's best whisky
France is planning to usurp Scotland’s reputation as the home of the world’s best whisky, fired by a growing national obsession with the drink. According to a study by retail consultants Bonial, the French drink more whisky than any other country – an average of 2.15 litres a year, compared to 1.8 litres in second-placed Uruguay and the US in third on 1.4 litres
Bloomberg via Getty Images
8/27 Chocolate-filled extravaganza
The London Contemporary Orchestra prepares for one of a kind performance in iconic St Luke’s in Old Street. After unique collaboration with Cadbury Dairy Milk they've produced an incredible multi-sensory live event, which will go ahead on 23 February, pairing the sound music with the taste of chocolate (the event is free to the public!)
¬© Jane Stockdale, ¬© Jane S
9/27 Creme Egg Cafe in London
The Cadbury Creme Egg cafe has opened on Greek Street in Soho, London and it welcomes everyone on the weekends, until 6 March 2016. The menu offers most delicious creme egg toasties and cakes and you may want to jump in to the ball pool for some more fun (available for children and adults!)
Cadbury Creme Egg / Joel Anderso
10/27 Cronut inventor Dominique Ansel to open first bakery in London
The inventor of the Cronut – a croissant and doughnut hybrid – is set to launch his first bakery in London. Dominique Ansel announced that his eponymous bakery will open at some point in 2016 on Instagram by posting an image of one of his famous pastries decorated with a Union Jack flag. The chef said he was “thrilled” about his new venture
11/27 Eating cereal may not be the healthiest way to start the day
The old saying goes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so many of us do as we are told and grab a bowl of cereal before we head out the door. But an expert has warned that while many cereals boxes claim their contents are the perfect start to the day, many are packed full of sugar and carbohydrates with little nutritional value. Even some seemingly-health muesli cereals have a lot of added sugar in the form of honey, malt, molasses, dried fruit or “even fruit juice”
12/27 Alton Towers Resort launches the UK’s first Rollercoaster Restaurant
For guests seeking a dining experience with a twist, Alton Towers Resort launches the UK’s first Rollercoaster Restaurant, brand new and opening in May 2016. The new restaurant is set below a vast rollercoaster track where diners can watch as their order tackles two gravity defying loop-the-loops before dropping 8m/26ft down the tornado spiral to their table. To ensure that the menu is up to the challenge, each of the dishes will be put through its paces at the Resort’s extensive test centre to guarantee that each one can withstand the force
13/27 'Heat map' shows which areas of Britain enjoy the spiciest curries
After Bradford was named the Curry Capital of Britain for the fifth year running, a map has been released showing which regions of Britain enjoy a spicy curry and which prefer the milder variants. According to the map developed by Hari Ghotra, Kent, Essex, West Yorkshire and Lancashire are the heat-handling kings of Britain, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all prefer milder curries. The data was collected by monitoring the location of social media posts that mentioned names of curries. These were then given a spice rating and were then collated to give each area a score out of 1000
14/27 Peckham-based business develops 'first hangover-preventing meat'
Victorians threw cold water over themselves, Native Americans licked their own sweat and Ancient Egyptians would cast spells on their beer. These days, the office barfly is more likely to be seen sipping an Alka-Seltzer the day after the night before. But the hangover-treatment industry is now reported to be worth billions, so it’s no wonder everyone from big pharma to quirky hipster start-ups are inventing new and enticing ways to cash in on the painful headaches and slumps in productivity – starting by preventing hangovers in the first place. One of the latest miracle cures to hit the shelves in 2015 is salami. Serious Pig, a Peckham-based craft meat business, has developed what it calls “the world’s first hangover- preventing meat treat”
15/27 French cheese under threat from mass production and ‘bacteriological correctness’
Search where you will in the most exclusive cheese shops in France and you will no longer find a bleu de Termignon, a vacherin d’Abondance or a galette des Monts-d’Or. They are among 50 species of French cheese to have vanished in the past four decades. The survival of French cheese made in the traditional manner with lait cru or raw, unpasteurised milk, is threatened by the “bacteriological correctness” of European and national food safety regulation
16/27 Non-alcoholic cocktails are seriously chic
We are living through a new era of creative, non-alcoholic drinks that go way beyond a coke or sweet mocktail. The world is becoming more health conscious. There's the war on sugar, and teetotalism is on the rise, with more than one in five not drinking at all (especially young adults), according to The National Statistics for Adult Drinking Habits. This abstinence is even more pronounced in London, with almost one in three turning away from alcohol. An increasing number of mixologists are applying their talents to the creation of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good as their boozy alternatives
17/27 Japanese whisky crisis
Suntory’s chief blender Mr. Fukuyo San blends component whiskies to create Suntory Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, a blend of young and old single malts. Japan’s warm climate and varied seasons makes it perfect environment to age and blend whiskies, creating subtle, refined and complex expressions.The recent trend for Japanese whisky has put the spirit on the verge of a global shortage
18/27 Crisps made with real ingredients
Michelin starred chef, Simon Rogan in action cooking a menu inspired by the provenance ingredients in the new Chef’s Signature range from Kettle Chips. Kettle Chips, the nation’s favourite premium crisp brand, has launched the new range of crisps with exciting new seasonings, made with the highest quality food ingredients rather than chemicals or artificial flavours
19/27 The price of an avocado is set to rise
Britain’s avocado coulovers are facing a significant increase in the cost of their favourite salad food because the so-called superfood is becoming too popular. High demand from health-conscious consumers has led Peru to triple its avocado exports since 2010, with exports to the UK up 58% over the past year
20/27 Burger King to sell alcohol in the UK
Burger King could become the first fast food chain to sell alcohol in its UK restaurants. The popular eatery plans to sell American beers in plastic bottles from this month onwards. The beverages are only to be consumed on restaurant premises
21/27 Guinness to become vegan-friendly
Guinness is set to become vegan friendly for the first time in its 256-year history, as the company announced its plan to stop using fish bladders in its filters
22/27 Why the salmon on your plate might not actually be salmon
Salmon that ends up on the dinner table may not be salmon at all, a study has suggested. The problem of salmon mislabelling has become an increasing issue in the US in the winter months, according to American research published by Oceana. The findings show that 43 per cent of the salmon tested was mislabelled – the most common instance of this being when farmed Atlantic salmon was sold as wild salmon
23/27 McDonald's launches 'premium' burger range
Fast-food chain McDonald’s is throwing its hat into the UK’s gourmet burger ring after launching its Signature Collection. The premium burgers, which feature the restaurant's thickest ever beef patty made from 100 per cent British and Irish beef, were made available in 28 restaurants in London and the South
24/27 Additives in popular chicken nuggets
Ingredients, a new book co-created by photographer Dwight Eschliman and food writer Steve Ettlinger distils 25 products, including popcorn, Red Bull and chicken soup, focusing on 75 of the most common food additives and revealing what each one looks like, where it comes from and why it is used. McDonald’s chicken nuggets were found to contain 40 different ingredients. These included dextrose, a sugar also used by shoe makers to make leather more pliable, and corn starch, used for thickening food as well as also being a substitute for petrol
25/27 New Zealanders are behind a lot of the interesting food and drink stuff happening in the UK
Dark beers are more suited to cold months, so the thinking goes, but in one part of the world they're always popular. "Lots of breweries in New Zealand have got stouts and porters among their best sellers," says Stu McKinlay, one half of the duo behind Wellington brewing company Yeastie Boys. McKinlay recently swapped Wellington for west Kent in order to launch Yeastie Boys in the UK, and he's joined forces with four other breweries (8 Wired, Renaissance, Three Boys, Tuatara) as part of the New Zealand Craft Beer Collective, to promote his country's finest over here
26/27 How dangerous is a bacon sandwich
A recent WHO report warning that processed and red meats can cause cancer may have left you thinking a little harder about whether to pick up that bacon butty for breakfast or ditch a beef-filled Bolognese for dinner - but how worried should we be? The review of 800 studies for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) prompted global health experts to cast processed meats - including bacon, ham and sausages - into the ominous-sounding list of group 1 carcinogens, where they joined formaldehyde, gamma radiation and cigarettes. Eating just a 50g portion of processed meat – or two rashers of bacon - a day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent, the experts concluded
27/27 Best UK fish and chip shops revealed in ‘Oscars’ of fish-frying industry
Devon, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Somerset offer the best fish and chips in the UK, according to the 2016 National Fish and Chip Awards. Selected from a shortlist of 10 semi-finalists, Hanbury’s Famous Fish and Chips in Babbacombe, Devon; No 1 Cromer in Cromer, Norfolk; Papa’s Fish and Chips in Willerby, East Yorkshire; The Scallop Shell in Bath, Somerset; and Trenchers Restaurant in Whitby, North Yorkshire have been declared the best restaurants serving the traditional English dish
She harvests a range of different seaweeds including organic dulse (a gorgeous warm red colour with sweetness, smokiness and that unmistakable hint of the ocean), sea spaghetti, sea greens, and kombu. The seaweeds can be used dry, as an ingredient or sprinkled on top, or rehydrated and added to soups, stews, eggs, stir-fries – even sweet dishes like brownies can get the seaweed treatment.
These edible algae pack a nutritional punch. Take that lovely dulse – it’s high in protein and fibre, low in fat, and full of calcium, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, zinc plus a rather awe inspiring list of vitamins. Researchers at Newcastle University now say that the alginate found in seaweed reduces the uptake of fat in the body with hopes that seaweed could be an important tool in the fight against obesity. All in all, it puts other so-called super foods to shame.
We’ve been eating seaweed for centuries and it’s always been an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. But now with the likes of Jamie Oliver raving about seaweed and businesses harvesting and supplying native seaweed it could be its time to shine. “I play around with it to extract the oils or make seaweed ketchup or different seaweed butters,” says Jonathan. “It’s a very clever ingredient because it works so well with so many things. Four or five years ago, it felt like an uphill struggle. But now it’s getting there.”
All the signs point to a long overdue change in how we think about, cook with, and eat seaweed. However, whether or not Jonathan will convince his daughter to love his favourite dish of laverbread remains to be seen…
Five beans on toast with Welshman’s Caviar – The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company
Seaweed should be part of every day cooking. I believe it is as essential as salt or pepper. So here is a quick, easy every day recipe which elevates this classic to a whole new level. Eat well!
1 rustic roll
1tbsp Welshman’s Caviar
1tsp Welsh Sea Black Butter
50g British mature cheddar, grated
½ tin Heinz Five Beans
1tsp tomato ketchup
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Warm your beans up slowly and add the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to thicken and season. Cut your roll in half and toast. Once toasted spread the Welsh Sea Black Butter on both sides. Add the cooked beans, top with grated cheese and place under the grill.If you don't have a grill, don't worry neither do I. Once the cheese is gooey and golden, sprinkle on the Welshman’s Caviar, enjoy!
Goan kombu fish curry – The Cornish Seaweed Company
4tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
Large nob of ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pinch of Cornish sea salt
1 onion finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1 tin coconut milk
1tbsp soft light-brown sugar
1 green chilli, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
500g firm white fish fillets, skin removed and flesh cut into chunks (about 3cm sq)
30g fresh kombu rinsed and chopped into 4cm chunks
Toast the coriander seeds, cumin and dried chillies in a dry frying pan for about a minute. Grind in pestle and mortar, then mix in the ginger, garlic, turmeric and salt. Heat the oil over a medium heat and fry the onion until soft. Mix in the ground spices and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the tomatoes and cook down to reduce the liquid. Add the coconut milk, kombu, sugar, and green chilli and bring to almost boiling. Then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until sauce is thicker. Slightly salt the fish then add it to the pan and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the fish has just cooked through. Season if needed then serve with a generous sprinkle of coriander.Reuse content