Although classified as a brown seaweed, wakame is actually green in colour when used in cooking. Wakame has been used by Asian populations for centuries and is best know as an ingredient in the miso soup, a tonic dish that has build a reputation for bringing the sick & weak back to life. Wakame’s North Atlantic cousin, Alaria, looks slightly different but has very similar nutritional & culinary attributes. Wakame is a lot more than a soup ingredient. Its silky texture, deep green colour and mild oyster–like taste make it a versatile participant in a wide variety of dishes. The un-initiated often confuse wakame and nori. Both are seaweed varieties, but from completely different families with very different taste profiles and culinary characteristics.
I am always keen to find new combinations for seaweed dishes. We regularly taste the Asian recipes when we indulge in Japanese, Korean or Chinese foods, but they are not always dishes that we would readily attempt at home. My goal is to carve a place for seaweed as part of the ingredient range that we use every day. ‘Beans & pulses’ offer so much nutritionally but cooking them on a regular basis requires a little inspiration and motivation for most of us. Check out ‘Seaweed & Pulses, a marriage made in Heaven ?’ for more information on why pulses & seaweed are such a healthy combination.
The recipe below is a creative mixture of grain, pasta, nuts, seaweed and herbs that is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Try and use various types of grapes for an amazing presentation. With lots of colour & texture, this salad makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled fish or roast chicken !
The salad recipe:
Ingredients (serves 4):
250g pearl barley
10g dried wakame fronds
Small red onion, chopped
50g flaked almonds, roasted
50g pine nuts, roasted
200g seedless green grapes, halved
¼ cup each chopped fresh dill, mint & parsley
130ml CCM macadamia oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp of sumac
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted & ground
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook barley in a saucepan of simmering water for 20 minutes.
Add orzo, cook for another 8 minutes or until barley is tender and orzo al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Drain again and transfer to a large bowl.
Soak the wakame in warm water for 5 minutes, and then squeeze the excess water out. Heat one tsp of oil in a small frying pan over medium heat, add the wakame fronds and toss for a minute then combine with the barley mixture.
Combine the rest of the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper.
Add the dressing, nuts, grapes and herbs to the barley mixture and toss well to combine.
Click to find out more about Wakame
Dried wakame expands a lot upon re-hydration – to roughly 10 times its dry size – 5g of a good quality dried wakame should translate into 50g of re-hydrated wakame. Wakame will also take on the flavour of the liquid it is re-hydrated in. Try re-hydrating in juice and including it in desserts.
Wakame is one of the highest sources of calcium. It is rich in B complex vitamins & vitamins A, C and K. It is high in protein, iron & magnesium and also an excellent source of iodine, chromium, zinc, phosphorus & potassium. In order to preserve the nutritional value, it is best to re-hydrate the wakame in luke-warm water and add it to dishes after they are cooked.