Recently I went on a lovely coastal walk on Mersea Island, which is off the Essex coast (it’s reached by a tidal causeway). I hadn’t planned to go foraging but when I came across sea beet growing in large clusters, it made sense to gather up two large handfuls to take home and cook into something interesting.
I do love to forage from time to time – not mushrooms mind you as they can be tricky to identify unless you are with an expert. Somethings are easier to recognise and sea beet is one of those. Disclaimer: If you are going to try to find some yourself please consult the internet for other sources to check on identification. John Wright’s book ‘Edible Seashore’ may also be a good book to take on your walks to help identify. It’s best to check with a few sources to be sure.
I thought the sea beet would lend itself well to a ‘sag aloo’ type dish (spinach and potato curry). It’s more robust than spinach and has a lovely earthy taste to it. It is in fact the wild ancestor to the beetroot, sugar beet and swiss chard and is called a host of names including sea beet, sea spinach, wild beet and wild spinach. In ancient times, the leaves and root of the sea beet were used to treat several diseases, particularly tumours. The juice is even good for treating ulcers apparently!
When you forage you need to wash and clean your ‘treasure’ properly in cold water. I rinsed the leaves three times to be on the safe side. I then roughly chopped the leaves and prepared the potatoes. This curry is a lovely way to include sea beet into your diet, but if you are not going near any coastal areas you can always use spinach instead.
I would love to hear from any of you who may have used this ingredient before? How did you cook it? Leave a comment in the comment box below.
Sea Beet and Potato Curry
1 tbsp oil
2 dried red chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 2 inch cubes
1 tsp salt to taste
2 large handfuls of foraged sea beet or around 260g of fresh spinach
2 tbsp water
- Heat the oil and then add the dried red chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Let the seeds begin to fizzle and then add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (if using).
- Add the potatoes and cover them in seeds and spices and cook gently on a medium to low heat, stirring every now and then. Add the salt.
- After about 8-10 minutes, add the washed sea beet and fold in gently to the potatoes.
- Add 1 tbsp of water and allow the sea beet to wilt and the potato to soften completely. To check the potato has soften stick a sharp knife into it, if it goes in easily then they are ready. You may need to place a lid on the pan to help steam it, if the potato needs more time to soften, which will speed up the softening. Add the remaining water if need.
Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt and a wedge of lemon on the side. It also works really well if you cook my chana dal to eat along side it.