Samphire is an ingredient that features on the menu at Friends from time to time. It is sometimes referred to as 'sea asparagus' because, when inspected closely, although not related, it resembles miniature asparagus spears.
It is not seaweed, although it grows by the sea, and is a member of the beet family.
Marsh samphire, to be accurate, is found all around Britain, in estuaries and on salt marshes.
East Anglia in particular is a good source. The young green
shoots are at their best from spring to late summer, although towards the end, it tends to become 'woody'.
It is generally used in fish dishes because of its seawater salty taste, and when lightly blanched, has been described as a being like a salty sea breeze.
Most fish, especially salmon, cod and sea bass, can be cooked with samphire.
I featured in one of my books a recipe where John Dory was steamed with samphire, but I would like to share this little masterpiece using instead sea bass.
Sea bass with marsh samphire and butter sauce
Ingredients (Serves four)
2 chopped shallots
150ml dry white wine
50ml double cream
100g unsalted butter, cut into small dice
4 fillets of sea bass approx 150g each (de-scaled and pin bones removed)
A little oil
Method 1) Make the sauce by putting the shallots and wine in a pan and reduce by half. 2) Add the cream, bring to the boil and then whisk in the butter, and strain into a clean pan. Season to taste. 3) Blanch the samphire in boiling water for one minute, drain and place on to the centre of your warm serving plates. 4) Lightly season the fish, and sear them in hot oil, skin side down, for about three minutes.
5) Turn them over, and cook for a further 3 minutes. 6) Place the fish on top of the samphire and surround with the butter sauce.
NB: There is very little salt needed in this dish, because of the flavour of the samphire. Serve with an unoaked Chardonnay.
Terry's tip: Samphire should be available from your fishmonger, and is usually found in markets nearer the sea, such as Kings Lynn in Norfolk, where it's as cheap as chips!