Fusion Food: Seaweed Butter for Martini Canapés


Seaweed butter on a cracker with tsukemono cucumber pickles in the background.


I recently enjoyed a discovery taster menu at the beautiful Michelin-starred Greenhouse restaurant in London’s upscale Mayfair area.


I didn’t have any martinis as I didn’t want to spoil my palette before the dining extravaganza but the setting was beautiful, the food utterly inspiring and the service convivial and professional; in-depth but relaxed. What a treat! It certainly set my martini-obsessed brain into overload thinking of new potential ideas and experiments.


The exquisite nine-course menu contained a range of surprising and inspiring combinations, including cauliflower mousse with crab meat and mint jelly; scallop and yuzu tartare; grilled beef and pineapple and even the most gourmet version of cheese on toast I’ve ever heard of.


Did I mention the oyster, abalone and lettuce ravioli in a dashi stock?

Taking me by surprise once again was the fact that one of the most notable dishes we enjoyed was the bread course near the beginning. We were offered a selection of bread types (I chose the Chestnut bread) and two types of butter with a pinch of salt: one standard doux (unsalted) butter and one mixed with Cornish seaweed. I instantly gravitated to the latter and I wasn’t dissatisfied! The salty, umami creaminess was unwordly.


So being the seaweed obsessive that I am, I tried to make my own version of the butter.

I tried to keep it simple as I’m not very skilled but evidently you can make a pretty tasty version without too much effort. Not a patch on the fine work of the Greenhouse but enough for me nonetheless.


It looks a bit gross but bear with me on this one.


I took 300g butter (I chose lighter Lurpak) and mixed it throughly with a generous punch of salt and three crumbled sheets of nori seaweed.


I then put it back into the butter tub and returned it to the fridge. I’m told it will last until the original sell-by date of the butter. Maybe even a little longer because of the salt. You should also be able to freeze it.


After that it’s fairy versatile! The salty-umami combination, served chilled, is highly tantalising on bread, crackers, oatcakes or rice cakes.


It can also be used to top cooked food such as potatoes or fish.

I’m still playing around with other possibilities.


Inspired by a combination of Japanese makizushi rolls and a traditional British snack I made a triple-decker cucumber sandwich using the seaweed butter and a smear of wasabi, then cut it into small squares to serve with some martinis.

New AND retro.

My friends who normally make fun of me for serving what they term “alien food” said they were surprised to find it quite nice.

Thanks for the support guys!


I also had a go using it with scallops…


As well as in sushi. I’ll blog about these later.

Otherwise I’ll keep on experimenting but if I’m honest it’s really nice simply spread on some good quality bread!

Till the next time…

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Beef yakitori snacks

  
I had a couple of people round for a catch up (over drinks of course).

I was trying to think of something quick and I easy I could feed them between martini drinking when I came across some beef mince on special offer at the supermarket.

I bought a kilogram and decided to make yakitori, a type of Japanese skewer kebab, inspired by izakaya/yakitori-bar type food.

I made the following recipe:

  

  • Soak several bamboo skewers in water overnight.
  • Peel and finely chop a thumb-sized piece of ginger and add it to a large bowl.
  • Finely chop 8 spring onions and add them to the bowl.
  • I added a splodge of garlic paste.
  • I then added 4 eggs and stirred them lightly with a fork to break them up.
  • I then added a tablespoon of plain flour and a teaspoon of cornflour.
  • Next, I tipped in the mince and mixed it all up with my hands.  This is both a hugely satisfying task but also horrifically messy.  Thoroughly wash your hands both before and after.

  

  • I made the mince mixture into little balls, around 3.5cm in diameter.

  

  • I then threaded them onto the bamboo skewers. I put three on each but this will depend on the size of your skewers.

  

I then mixed a glaze:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp mirin
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp vinegar from the pickled ginger jar (balsamic or even ordinary vinegar would be fine as well I’m sure)
  • A dash or Worcestershire sauce
  • Stir in the ingredients in a bowl then microwave for 20 seconds.
  • I then put the grill on 200 degrees C and threw in the yakitori for about 8 minutes.

  

  • Remove the yakitori from the grill.
  • Use a pastry brush to coat the top layer with the glaze.
  • Gently turn the yakitori over so that the less-cooked side is facing upwards.
  • Coat the newly exposed sides and put back into the oven for about 8 more minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

I served them immediately with a simple dipping sauce (2 parts soy sauce 1 part rice vinegar).

You can sprinkle over some more chopped spring onions if you can be bothered. It adds a nice contrasting colour.

Otherwise best consumed when tipsy. It would go particularly nicely with a Pickled Ginger Martini.

    A Martin Miller’s Gin martini

    I first collected a bottle of this gin in Madrid airport duty free. The unusual branding caught my eye. Made with pure Icelandic water with a traditional English gin technique, it sits in a tall, proud-looking bottle with straight lines and clean imagery. There are strong maritime tones to the bottles appearance.

      
    The gin has a crisp, dry flavour that you can lose in a gin and tonic (make sure you choose a tonic that does the gin justice). In a martini, however, I thought it went very well.

    It has a smokey-smooth character, not too strong on juniper, or indeed any botanicals, which helped make a subtle but simultaneously bold martini.

      
    To hark to its Nordic links you could drink it around mid-summer (midsommar), or mid-winter, but to be honest it would work at any time of year. Like most classic martinis it will go well with seafood but there’s something about this gin which makes me want to pair it with smoked things in particular – fish or meat. 

      
    It also went down very nicely in the smokey air as we waited for steaks to cook on our fire pit. Despite the beautiful sunset it was freezing up in the Hebrides when we drank this, but we kept warm with the strong spirits inside us as we stood around the fire. 

      
    Feeling a little bit merry, I went for a nice wander in the trees shortly after. A lovely end to the day.

    South African biltong

    I love most foods that are raw, pickled or cured (with the exception of tinned tuna). A lot of them lend themselves very well to being a good martini accompaniment.

     
    Enter the biltong. Usually (but not exclusively) made from beef, seasoned and dried in blocks, this South African delicacy was born out of hardy necessity to preserve meat, often ahead of long journeys into the interior of the country during early colonial days. The meat is normally cured with vinegar, herbs and spices before being dried to preserve it. It is similar to beef jerky but thicker and with a slightly more complex flavour.

     
    I have cousins from South Africa who recently held a birthday barbecue (a braai). Served up on a magnificent, specialised chopping device was a block of biltong. You chop off a slice, which in itself adds a little bit of grandiose ceremony to the process, unlike jerky which you would simply pull out of a packet.

     
    Slowly chew the meat with an accompanying drink, savouring the flavour and texture. Remind yourself that you are living a far cry lifestyle away from the hardships endured by biltong’s initial creators as they helped found a new nation.

    More snacks and nibbles to accompany martinis

    Here is another selection of savoury snacks I’ve recently served and eaten with martinis.

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    Roasted and salted soy beans.

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    Prawns on lettuce with Peking duck sauce and fried spicy broad beans.

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    You can get a lot of good stuff in IKEA.

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    Fish roe goes well in Swedish croustades.

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    Here are some of the filled croustades, as well as some Japanese nuts and seaweed snacks.

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    Here are some more croustades with a smidgen of Sås senap and dill (a type of sweet Swedish mustard) topped up with Tångkorn (a salty seaweed extract) with a fleck of lemon peel to garnish.

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    I like to keep a selection of things like peanuts, pistachio nuts, Bombay mix etc just in case you need an emergency martini (it happens).

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    A simple favourite: Bombay mix and olives stuffed with anchovies.

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    MUM’S ROAST BEEF!

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    Sushi.

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    Sage leaves fried in butter with garlic and walnuts (see here for the recipe).

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    Steak. After you cook it, let it rest for about 5 minutes then slice it thinly.

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    Scrumptious pieces of grilled Parma ham.

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    Olives and squid.

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    Elk and pork sausage.


    Fried salmon skin.

    Fried sage leaves again, but this time with no additions of garlic or nuts.

    Ceviche.

    Pistachio nuts.

     And finally, happiness is finding an olive (or three) at the bottom of your martini when you’re hungry, said a very wise man.

    The Tramshed, Shoreditch: 4/5

    

    Overall a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed this restaurant.

    The martini I had was also very good, although I would prefer it a little colder (keep everything in the freezer) and with more lemon (squeeze the peel into the glass when pouring). Otherwise it was beautifully served.

    

    While I’ve seen this on the Internet, it was the first time I had actually drink a martini where my “top-up” came in a small bottle in ice on the side. I have been skeptical of this before because while it means the gin will be cold for your second pouring, the glass will have warmed up. I prefer to serve my second martini with a fresh, frozen glass. Nonetheless this, to me, is an effective and efficient means of serving such a drink in a busy restaurant. Furthermore the gin was definitely nice and cold when I poured the second batch. The use of Noccelara olives also wins points.

    

    I loved the old fashioned food, served with raucous panache. It was definitely comfort grub, with roast chicken, chips, steak and Yorkshire pudding, dramatically served as above; herb-encrusted with utensils inserted coquettishly into animal orifices.

    

    The meat was good quality and nicely prepared.

    

    The generously-sized Yorkshire pudding was one of the tastiest forms of carbohydrate I’ve ever eaten in the UK.

    

    After the martini we drank some nice Lebanese wine (Massaya, from the Beqaa Valley).

    

    And… prepare yourself for some innuendo… we also tried the “cock shots” and “shot of bull” which were basically vodka flavoured with chicken stock or beef consommé. We loved the beef one in particular. It had hearty and warming flavour, with the umami of a consommé rendering the drink almost like a miniature Bloody Mary with a kick of horseradish. The shots definitely weren’t a gimmick. I would strongly recommend trying them before eating.

    

    Set in an actual former tram shed, the tiled walls and industrial layout added to the ‘rough and ready’ feel of the venue. The trendy staff, attractive diners and selection of art works (such as the Damian Hirst cow and chicken – above) also came together to produce a brash, fun, modern take on something very traditional. This combination of old and new is something that London continues to get right. Bravo!

    Special Beef Delivery

    A very generous friend of mine heard that I was sick and told me he was sending a rescue package. He didn’t tell me what was in it but told me to wait in my flat between certain hours of the day for it to arrive. Given that I was in bed with some sort of virus, this was fairly straight forward.

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    When it arrived I was bowled over. A box full of juicy, select cuts of beef, as well as some rub-in seasoning and some gourmet gravy. Om Nom Nom!

    The delivery came from Turner and George, a butchers near Angel tube station.

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    Beautifully packaged, I unwrapped one and put the rest in the freezer. I will defrost and cook some when my generous friend next comes round for a martini.

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    With the sirloin steak I left out, I massaged in some of the seasoning rub and left it to marinade for a few hours in a sealed tub at room temperature.

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    When it was time to cook I heated some sesame oil on a griddle (the hob was set to high) then added the steak, cooking it for just over a minute on each side. I then left it to rest for a few minutes while I arranged the plate.

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    It’s not the most artistic dinner I’ve ever served, but I’m both ill and hungry. I served the steak with a fried egg on top, with broccoli, cherry tomatoes and a yoghurt and mustard sauce, with sesame seeds and a little hot sauce sprinkled over the top.

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    It was such a good cut and tasted lovely. I felt like it definitely contributed to my recovery. However, during healthier times, something so exquisite might also make a good martini accompaniment (yes, I’m obsessed). Cook the steak as above, just before you pour your drink, then cut it into thin slices to serve on a plate alongside the martini. Exquisite.