As I wrote on DesignMom last week, this is my first year celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as an actual Irish citizen, courtesy of my husband. I think the Irish have historically celebrated the day with less fanfare than we Americans do, but this seems like a good day to post about a favorite new cooking ingredient that I discovered on our last trip to Ireland: seaweed.
No joke. It’s carrageen moss to be specific, even though it's technically a seaweed. And my husband Mike remembers going down to the rocky coastline when he was little to hunt for it. It has a crazy cool property that releases a gel that acts as a thickener. So I suppose it’s really a kind of briny natural gelatin. Fortunately, it doesn't turn your desserts brackish because it doesn't taste of the sea if you soak it before cooking with it. Nature, huh? So rad.
I obsessed over this the last time we were there, and finally found some. Not along the shore (as I had romantically envisioned), but in a health food store in town. I had a recipe for delicate lemon pots that called for the moss, and it was Earth-Science-Meets-Home-Ec when I added seaweed to my pot of cream and lemon zest.
One more mossy detail. When we were in Ireland last fall, Mike and I dug a garden-to-be in the front of cottage. I swear we used tools that were straight out of the Old Testament, they were so old. They tugged at my Luddite soul, with their perfectly effective simplicity. Before we left, we hauled bags of seaweed up from the shore and piled it on top of the bare garden, in the hopes that we'll be able to plant potatoes the next time we're there. This thrills and touches my father-in-law, who remembers pulling fat potatoes out of the same ground when he was a kid. It turns out his parents' kitchen garden was in the same spot.
Hopefully the luck and love is still in the soil.