Marsh samphire is a seasonal delicacy that grows on tidal marshes around Britain. The best marsh samphire is covered by every tide, giving it that distinctive taste of the sea. If you happen to be in a coastal area this summer, you can pick it at low tide. Otherwise look out for it at farmers’ markets, specialty food shops and fishmongers – you can certainly pick some up at Elsey & Bent greengrocers in Borough Market.
Marsh samphire has a briny, mineral intensity, so it’s a natural partner for fish. It’s also delicious raw in a salad, deep fried in beer batter or folded into an omlette. It doesn’t keep that well – after a few days in the fridge it will begin to lose its vibrancy and crunch – so if you have a glut it’s best to preserve it.
To pickle samphire, wash it thoroughly and pack it into a sterilised jar. Put equal amounts of water, sugar and white wine vinegar into a pot. Drop in some bay leaf, fennel seeds and star anise to flavour. Bring to the boil then pour over the samphire so that it’s completely submerged. Screw on the lid and store in a cool place for a month. The result is a wonderfully intense pickle, which will add complexity and texture to even the simplest plate of smoked fish.
Lemon Sole with Samphire, Tomato, Herbs & Coriander Seeds
Harness the mineral intensity of samphire with this herby lemon sole dish
- Prep Time 25
- Cook Time 20
- Serves 1
Ingredients1 lemon sole (800g), cleaned and scaled
Splash of olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
50g marsh samphire, washed and tough stalks removed
1 plum tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, lightly toasted
Basil (torn) and chives (chopped), to taste
100g butter, diced
1 lemon, zest and juice separate
Jersey Royals and watercress to serve
Line a large baking tray with baking paper and lightly oil.
Season the fish on both sides and place in the paper. Sprinkle over the diced shallots and lemon zest. Drizzle with oil and wrap to form a parcel. Bake for 15 minutes.
Warm the lemon juice and gradually whisk in the butter over a low heat to form an emulsion. Do not overheat or it will split.
Add the diced tomato, coriander seeds and herbs. Lightly season. Keep warm.
When the fish is cooked remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes before unwrapping.
In the meantime bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the samphire for 1 minute. Drain.
Open the parcel. Sprinkle over the samphire and dress with the butter sauce.
Serve with Jersey Royals and watercress.