Tuesday, 15 May 2012

egg, shallot & samphire salad with smoky lemon dressing

The slender, knobbly green fingers beckoned.

"Try us," they beseech. "You've never tried us before."

It's true, I hadn't. Oh, I knew of samphire, of course. I've heard about the languid foraging excursions undertaken by intrepid food-lovers; I've spied them on the slickly written menus in expensive restaurants. But they were so quaint and far removed from my regular life that for all I was concerned they could be a made-up ingredient from a fairy tale.

marsh samphire, also known as sea asparagus.

It turns out they are quite real, and I have finally met them in the flesh. The label on the packet instructs, slightly awkwardly: "This unique vegetable, to be used steamed. Yummy in stir-fries or blanched and used as a bed under seafood."

I broke off a small piece and ate it raw, to give myself an inkling of what I was getting into. So what did it taste like? Imagine a crunchy, hollow vegetable shaped like a spindly, rugged drinking straw that's absolutely zonked out on sea water, and that's pretty much what marsh samphire is. Given how briny it was, I decided to boil it, hoping to strip away some of the excess salt. This seemed to help a little, but it was still very salty, and I can see that this is one ingredient that could require a nifty balancing act.

So this is what I did, based on what I already have at home. I boiled four eggs until their yolks were just set, then peeled and sliced them, rejoicing at their creamy, vibrant orange goodness. For the dressing, I sloshed together some lemon juice with extra virgin olive oil, swirled through a sexy dose of smoked Spanish paprika, and then, spying a shallot on the counter, chopped that up, too, and flung it in. It's tangy, it's smoky, it's savoury - what's not to love?

These joined forces proved to be a good match for the samphire. The tart and spicy dressing tamed the excessive saltiness, and the eggs, in their simplicity, were calm and gentle amongst the veritable ocean of flavours. I would definitely make this again.

egg, shallot & samphire salad with a spicy, smoky, tangy lemon dressing.

egg, shallot & samphire salad with smoky lemon dressing
(makes 2 light serves)


50g marsh samphire / sea asparagus
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Spanish hot smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera, Picante)*
4 large medium-boiled or hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Trim and discard the tough, fibrous stems near the root end of the samphire stalks. Roughly snip the samphire into shorter sections to make them more manageable when eating.
Bring a pot of water to boil, then throw in the samphire and let it cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Drain, then lightly rinse the samphire with cold water.
Mix shallot, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and Spanish hot smoked paprika to create a dressing.
Toss the samphire with half the dressing, then top with egg slices and drizzle with remaining dressing. No need to add salt!

You can have this salad for breakfast or brunch with some buttered toast - if you like, you can tear the toast into pieces and scatter them through the salad. This would work very, very well indeed. Alternatively, you could also serve it with any meal as a punchy little side dish.

*Pimenton de la Vera aka Spanish smoked paprika can usually be found at specialty and gourmet food stores, spice shops, or Spanish grocery stores. In lieu of the hot (Picante) version, you may use the mild, sweet version (Dulce) or medium, bittersweet version (Agridulce).

P.S. I love the dressing in this dish. It flavours the eggs beautifully, and if you don't have samphire, feel free to improvise with other vegetables - I imagine green beans, broccolini or asparagus would work well. The only difference is that you will probably want to season with a pinch of salt if using these substitutes.


I purchased my samphire from The Vegetable Connection in Fitzroy. The samphire is packaged by Outback Pride (please see their site for a list of other stockists in Australia). Note - they seem to pop up in the shops quite sporadically, so get ready to pounce if/when you see them!

egg, shallot & samphire salad with lemon, hot smoked paprika and extra virgin olive oil.

42 comments:

  1. Marsh samphire, how cool! I see it's also called glasswort, which brings quaint images to mind. I've never tried this, but I see that there might be some species located on the coast near me. I'll keep an eye out next time I'm near the ocean!

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    1. It does have a quaint quality, doesn't it? And happy foraging!

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  2. Salad looks amazing!!! I'm dying to try samphire.Great!

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    1. Thank you! Hope you get to try samphire one day too.

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  3. Yum! What a great use for samphire. I've used it in pasta dishes as a nice crunchy accent, but this looks even better.

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    1. Aw thanks! I'm pretty pleased with this creation, if I do say so myself.

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  4. I absolutely love everything about this salad. And that dressing sounds divine!

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    1. Thank you! I do love that dressing and I can imagine it with so many other things.

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  5. where did you get it from, Leafness?

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    1. :) I got it from The Vegetable Connection in Fitzroy. (It's noted there right at the bottom of my post.)

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  6. Aah Leaf, if only Samphire was more readily available. My only unreliable source has been that organic grocer on Brunswick Street, where did you get yours? I lightly blanched mine and served it with olive oil, crushed garlic and lemon juice alongside a nicely grilled piece of fish ... but I think your recipe is definitely more complimentary to the flavour of this briny green.

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    1. That's the one! I go there often enough but this is probably the first time I've seen samphire stocked. I like the way you serve it too. A bit of oil, acidity, and something spicy or pungent seems to be the trick.

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  7. This recipe is AMAZING, Leaf! So simple and delicious. Though, I'll be honest to say at first I read "mash saphire" cause I didn't know what it is lol! Thanks for introducing me to yet another interesting ingredient. Want to try this now =]

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    1. Haha, thanks! It's an easy recipe indeed. The hardest part was probably peeling and slicing the eggs, which is nothing really!

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  8. What a stunning dish. I love that photo as well!

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    1. Thank you! The samphire does give it a dramatic effect. ;)

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  9. I have, no joke, wanted to try samphire for about a decade, ever since I first saw it on some Rick Stein dish. One day! Love the gorgeous gooey yolks in your dish :)

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    1. One day, for sure! And thanks, I do love my yolks that way. Though, when sliced, they do have a tendency to stick to the knife. I still find a way to eat them. ;)

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  10. so they are like... seaweed right?

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    1. Sort of, but they grow by the beach, not in the ocean itself.

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  11. This is such a scrumptious looking salad! Love it!

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  12. I love trying new ingredients and samphire looks like one I should try to find. This salad is a gorgeous use for it.

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    1. It's a pretty interesting ingredient with a unique texture. I'm glad I got to try it!

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  13. Okay, now I need to find this! I love trying new things.

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    1. I hope you find it! I just know you'll make something beautiful.

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  14. Ooh nice one Leaf! I have always wanted to try this. Love your flavours.

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    1. I've always found samphire to be intriguing too, and I'm glad to have finally tried it!

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  15. Interestingly I've had quite a bit of samphire in my food adventures (at Joost, at the Noma lunch and at the sustainability dinner with Douglas McMaster).. seems to be a very sustainable plant...

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    1. You have indeed! I don't eat out at fancy joints very often, so haven't really gotten a chance to get up close and personal with samphire till now.

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  16. Oh this looks so amazing! I have had samphire before but have never thought too much about foraging for it :)

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    1. Now that I've tried it I reckon I'll keep an eye out next time I'm at the beach. :D

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  17. What a find, Leaf! Seriously you never cease to amaze me with your combinations and how you find these beautiful - and sometimes odd - ingredients. Just great stuff.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Yasmeen! I do love beautiful and odd ingredients...

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  18. I feel like it could even be a fairy tale character's name, let alone an ingredient from a fairy tale. I've heard of it, but I'm not sure how widely available samphire is in New Zealand - will turn to this blog post if I ever come across it!

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    1. It could indeed be a fairy tale character's name! I can just imagine it. Apparently samphire is more prevalent during the summer season, even though I got this batch in autumn. So your best bet might be to watch out for it from November onwards...

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  19. I have never heard of this, what a cool thing!!! I have to do some research and see if it's available around here. I love wha you did with it!

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    1. It is a pretty cool vegetable, isn't it? Thanks. :D

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  20. That is one delicious looking salad. I love the simple vinaigrette not to overpower each ingredient. I've never seen sea asparagus. Do they taste same as regular asparagus?

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    1. Thanks! :) They look a little alike, but they don't really taste the same.

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  21. I didn't know samphire. What an interesting and challenging ingredient. Nothing like what we have in France! A great recipe!

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  22. What a gorgeous recipe and photo! And thank you for the introduction to a new (new to me) ingredient.

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